Boats banned for season on reservoirs Public Works cites fear of zebra mussels

April 25, 1992|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Writer

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works yesterday extended the moratorium on boats at Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs through the 1992 season. Loch Raven Reservoir will be restricted to the use of county-owned rental boats from the Fishing Center.

"The ax has fallen," said Duke Nohe, chairman of the Maryland Aquatic Resources Coalition, an organization of state fishermen that has lobbied for an end to the moratorium. "We offered everything we could, and it still didn't mean a damn thing to them."

The reservoirs were closed to boats and boat fishermen on March 1 to allow the city to determine the best method to prevent contamination of the reservoirs by zebra mussels. According to Department of Natural Resources biologists and watershed manager Brent Hartley, zebra mussels are not present in the reservoirs.

The accidental introduction of the mussels, however, could have a major impact on the operation of the reservoirs, which provide water to some 1.5 million residents in the Baltimore area.

According to a statement issued yesterday by director of public works George Balog, a recommendation by the consulting firm, Acres International Corporation of Amherst, N.Y., was crucial to the city's decision.

"From a biological point of view," Balog said in the statement, "the ban on boating will limit the most important transfer mechanism for zebra mussels -- boats that have been used in infested waters and trailered to our reservoirs."

The continuance of the moratorium through the season will give public works time to design and construct control measures for its four water intake systems. The control systems will consist of storage tanks for chemicals and the piping of chemicals to dosing stations at the intakes.

Zebra mussel populations expand rapidly and will colonize virtually any firm, nontoxic structure they encounter. Intake areas provide a prime habitat for the mussels.

Nohe and members of MARC have met with Public Works personnel on three occasions and proposed various combinations of boat inspections, boat decontamination and public education programs as alternatives to the moratorium.

"We are very dissatisfied with what [Public Works] have done," Nohe said. "We feel that is not the way to go. All 1,800 reservoir fishermen would have been very protective, helped with public awareness programs and been the city's eyes and ears on the water. But they wanted guarantees, and there is no way we can give 100 percent guarantees."

Nohe said MARC has offered to continue working on a public awareness campaign while public works updates its reservoir equipment.

In an earlier meeting, Balog said that his primary concern was providing quality water to residents of the Baltimore area at a reasonable cost.

Money sent in by applicants for reservoir boat permits before the moratorium was enacted will be returned.

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