ELDERSBURG — A man concerned the state will put the welfare of fish before peopleprovided the sole testimony at a public hearing Friday on the reclassification of a series of streams.
"You have fish on one side and people and development on the other," said Raymond Beaty, who owns a farm off Bennett Road.
Beaty is concerned that if the Maryland Department of the Environment reclassifies Snowdens Run and three connecting streams as natural trout waters -- the highest designation -- that it would restrict usage and development.
A portion of Beaty's 130 acres is industrially zoned, and he would like to preserve its value for sale someday, he said. Although he was the only person to testify, county economic development staff and commission members came to ask questions.
Mary Jo Garreis, water quality program administrator for the MDE, said the reclassification would not change much because the land along those streams is already zoned as conservation.
The required 100-foot buffer from the stream to any building will not change for new industry, or expansion of existing industry such as Londontown Corp. Besides, Garreis said, the reclassification is only a formal description ofthe state the waters already are in.
"The quality was always there, but no one knew it because we never looked into it," she said.
Field biologists for the Department of Natural Resources had begun a program of checking smaller bodies of water, such as Snowdens Run. They found a brook trout population in Snowdens Run in 1990, she said. The existence of the fish indicates a very high water quality.
TheMDE then decided to check the other tributaries around Snowdens Run,and found the same water quality in Stillwater Creek, Carroll Highlands Run and Autumn Run.
All four streams are up for reclassification. Secretary of the Environment Robert Perciasepe will make a decision in the next month or so based on the hearing and information collected by his department and the DNR, Garreis said.
Beaty said the streams are protected by the county's conservational zoning already, and that the reclassification isn't necessary.
"The only reason it's in the shape it is now is because we've taken care of it," Beaty said. "It does not have to be at the expense of the development this county needs, and this county needs an industrial base."
But Garreissaid the federal Clean Water Act puts the responsibility on the state to make sure waters, all owned by the state, are protected no matter who owns or zones the surrounding land.
"Call it everybody's insurance policy," she said. "The county changed the zoning once; it could change again."