Tree cutting at Baltimore reservoirs debated

October 29, 1992|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Preservationists who want a logging ban on city reservoir land argued Tuesday night with industry representatives who favor cutting trees under careful supervision.

At issue at a public hearing at Loch Raven High School was a task force report on watershed management at three city-owned reservoirs: Loch Raven and Pretty Boy in Baltimore County, and Liberty, which straddles the border between Baltimore and Carroll counties. The report recommends that logging be phased out over five years, except for diseased or damaged trees that are a threat to safety.

Logging by private companies under contract to the city was halted nearly three years ago after complaints that the cutting was harming the environment and the city's drinking water.

The 10-member task force appointed by the city includes environmentalists, officials and community leaders. Created in February 1991, the panel is to make recommendations on protecting water quality and increasing the diversity of plant and animal life in the watersheds.

Hunters and fishermen were heavily represented among the approximately 250 people at the hearing. Hunters want the Loch Raven watershed opened to bow-hunting of deer. The fishermen want boating allowed again on the reservoirs, which supply water to 1.6 million people in the city and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties.

The city allows bow-hunting at Pretty Boy and Liberty, but bans it at Loch Raven because of heavy residential development. While the task force report indicated that deer overpopulation could result in damage to the forest, it recommended that the ban be continued for now.

George C. Balog, director of the city's Department of Public Works, agreed that Loch Raven has too many deer. "Public safety is the only factor here," he said. "If someone has an answer, let me know about it."

Boating on the reservoirs was banned by the city this year because it was feared that zebra mussels would be introduced from the hulls of the boats. The mussels breed rapidly and clog intake valves.

The city is working on barriers to protect the valves.

"If we erred, we erred on the side of caution," said Cathy Olson, chairperson of the task force and a member of the Sierra Club.

Typical of those opposing logging was Michael DiFilippi, who lives on Manor Road near Loch Raven: "Timber harvesting has no positive impact on water quality."

But Robert H. Rumpf, general manager of the P. H. Glatfelter paper company of Spring Grove, Pa., said that carefully controlled cutting is more beneficial to forests than uncontrolled growth. The company has cut several times under contract with the city, which had been earning about $275,000 year from logging, he said.

The task force also recommended a gradual conversion of pine forests to hardwoods to increase the diversity of plant and animal life.

Mr. Balog said that the city is organizing a "Friends of the Watershed" group to create a working relationship between the users and managers of the watersheds.

The city will accept written comments on the task force report until Nov. 27. Comments should be sent to Mr. Balog, Room 600, Abel Wolman Municipal Building, 200 N. Holiday St., Baltimore, Md. 21202.

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