Environmentalists plan meeting on bay rules

August 17, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Four environmental groups have scheduled a meeting in an effort to clear up confusion over what areas along the Chesapeake Bay are open to development and which are protected by federal regulations.

The meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the West River Sailing Club in Galesville, will provide information on regulations affecting shallow water tributaries along the bay.

How federal agencies regulate the sensitive sites is of concern to both conservationists and developers of marinas and residential communities.

Peter Kostmayer, a former Pennsylvania congressman who is this region's director for the Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the 5th District Democrat who arranged the forum, will be there.

Representatives from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will discuss their work.

Conflicts among the different definitions of habitats and wetlands that the agencies use -- and which ones state and local governments follow -- have caused confusion among developers. At Back Bay Beach, for example, exactly what the 22-acre property was and therefore what development restrictions should be placed on it, became part of a battle that was decided Aug. 4 by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

At issue were conditions of a grading permit for 13 houses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintained the land was largely nontidal wetlands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the site was not on nontidal wetlands. County maps show the site as a habitat in need of protection, but the county said it deferred to the Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The court agreed that the site was subject to shoreline protection laws, but the less strict ones.

"Federal agencies can't direct a county office or a state office to do things. But they do have oversight," said Peg Burroughs, environmental activist and past board member of the West River Federation, one of the groups sponsoring the forum.

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