Concern for darter fish unlikely to affect Redskins stadium plan

May 24, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

It is unlikely the glassy darter, a tiny, translucent fish on Maryland's endangered species list, will have much effect on plans to build a new stadium for the Redskins in Laurel, biologists say.

To begin with, it is unclear whether the fish, which is not on the federal endangered species list, exists in the Patuxent River, which flows by the stadium site.

Even if it is in the river, the fish should not endanger the stadium project, says Janet McKegg, director of the Natural Heritage Program of the state Department of Natural Resources. "At this point, we did not have any problems with this project as long as they maintain the water quality," she says.

The glassy darter lives in the sandy bottoms of clean rivers, burying itself up to the eyeballs and waiting for food to float by. Because of its lifestyle, the glassy darter is intolerant of silting and pollution, says Dr. Roman Jesien, a research scientist with Horn Point Environmental Laboratories, part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies.

Although Maryland lists the glassy darter as endangered, the fish does not appear on the federal list because it is found in other states.

The glassy darter used to be common in the Patuxent, but it was thought to have been eliminated from the area by 1977, according to Dr. Jesien.

He searched for the darter in the river near the Laurel race track in 1992, but found none.

That same year, the fish was found in the Little Patuxent River, a tributary of the Patuxent that flows into the river downstream from the stadium, says Ms. McKegg.

Whether or not the fish is present in the Patuxent near the stadium site, she says, her agency will work with other state agencies to place conditions on state permits required for the stadium project.

The conditions will force builders to take precautions during construction to ensure water quality is not harmed just in case scientists missed the fish in the river.

Meanwhile, the Redskins contend that their project will only help the glassy darter.

"We are improving the storm water drainage from that property," says Walter Lynch, stadium project manager.

Laurel Race Course, built in the early 1900s, has no storm water management facilities for its parking lots, he says. If the Redskins build a football stadium next to the race track, they will install storm water management facilities, improving the quality of run-off from the site.

His argument does not satisfy some stadium opponents, including Citizens Against the Stadium II, who are calling for a complete environmental impact study of the proposed stadium site.

"Before they proceed with tearing things up, everyone needs to know the ramifications," says Jeanne Mignon, president of CATS-II. "Why would you deliberately put a structure here without studying every impact this structure is going to have?"

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