What is fate of Severn watershed? Study to project its uses to 2020

November 25, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

What the Severn River watershed will look like in 2020 is the subject of a new $25,000 study commissioned by the county.

The Severn River Commission, a government-appointed advisory panel, has hired a Washington firm to examine extensively the land-use practices and policies in the 70-square-mile watershed.

The study will attempt to determine how the 23-mile river and its tributaries should be managed so they retain their character, said commission member Grant DeHart.

The Severn River watershed stretches from Odenton to Severna Park to Annapolis. It includes more than 100 neighborhoods, the state capital and three military installations -- the Naval Academy, the Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center and Fort Meade.

Land Ethics Inc., owned by Elizabeth Brabec, will collate information on county and state programs regulating shoreline development, forest clearing, erosion and marine activity. Then, the firm will project what the watershed will look like if it is developed under those policies.

The study will pay particular attention to how development will affect natural resources, including forests and open space, along the river, Mr. DeHart said. The company could then recommend changes in some land-use policies to protect those resources, he said.

Rodney Banks, a county planner assigned to the Severn River Commission, said the study should be complete by next summer. The commission then would like to launch a second-phase study if money is available that would identify residents' concerns and priorities.

The Severn Watershed Management Project follows watershed studies of the Magothy River and Rock Creek completed in the 1980s. The extensive Magothy study cost $217,436; Rock Creek $148,000.

The Severn River Commission has pushed the study for nearly two years. Its members have argued that the watershed is suffering not from any single development but from the cumulative impact of all development.

Where the studies on the Magothy River and Rock Creek focused on water quality, this analysis will focus on land-use practices.

Mr. DeHart said the study is particularly timely. In the past four years, laws have been adopted to manage the state's forests, to protect a 1,000-foot-wide strip along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and presevere non-tidal wetlands. He also noted massive new highways have been built, the lower Severn River bridge is being replaced and new high-rise buildings have been approved for Parole.

"There has been a lot of heightened citizen concern about the nature of development," Mr. DeHart said.

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