Lowering of lake level prompts concern for wetlands, wildlife

February 27, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- One of four lakes in the community of Lake Linganore at Eaglehead is being partially drained under state orders after tests showed its earthen dam may be weakening.

Pulling the plug on 14-acre Lake Merle has upset some residents because they fear the work may destroy wetlands and abundant aquatic life and displace waterfowl.

The Lake Linganore Association, a homeowners group that maintains public areas in the 3,700-acre community off Interstate 70 in eastern Frederick County, began pumping water from the lake to comply with a mandate from the state Department of Natural Resources' Dam Safety Division.

Patty Manown, a DNR spokeswoman in Western Maryland, said the DNR this month ordered Lake Linganore officials to lower the water level -- 30 feet in the lake's deepest areas -- by 16 feet to allow inspections to determine the extent of damage to the 20-year-old dam.

"The issue is, are we going to kill the environment while we try to figure out what's going on?" said resident Chris Goodwin.

Mr. Goodwin and others have asked the DNR either to rescind its order to lower the water until more studies can be done, or to limit the lowering to just 6 feet. He also said a few residents want to hire their own firm to study the matter.

"The lake is an important amenity to us," said resident Ann Brown.

DNR's preliminary inspection showed seepage and sliding earth the downside of the dam, at the lake's south end. Lake Merle is fed by a stream and drains into Linganore Creek, Lake Linganore, and eventually the Monocacy River.

Bob Porter, administrator of environmental control for the Linganore association, said draining the lake was chosen to ease pressure on the dam and because hiring divers to inspect the dam underwater would be costly and more cumbersome.

He said the association also wanted to protect a road that runs atop the dam to about 29 homes in the Balmoral village. The road is the only access to that village.

Lake Linganore is made up of small villages surrounding the 216-acre Lake Linganore and three smallers lakes, including Lake Merle. About 400 people live in the Meadows village on Lake Merle's western side and about 100 people live in Balmoral.

The dam, residents said, poses no danger because nobody lives directly below it.

Residents said they believed the DNR's order was made without sufficient study of the 400-foot-long dam's stability. They said more tests are needed and speculated that the problem may be nothing more than run-off caused by melting snow.

Residents said that if the dam is structurally damaged, they would support repairs, but they also want safeguards for wildlife.

"My concern, first off, is that this appears to be a disregard by whomever -- state agencies or local community -- for any sort of safeguard or interest for resources in lake," said resident Rob Wolotira. "Granted, it's a small lake in a small rural community, but I don't know where we draw the line on which resources are important and which ones aren't."

Residents said the lake -- in the northern end of the development -- is home to northern pike, catfish, bass, turtles, nesting herons, swans, ducks and geese.

About 100 residents at a meeting Wednesday asked Lake Linganore Association officials to test more to determine the dam's integrity and to commit to restoring the lake as soon as possible to minimize harm to wildlife.

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