Severn group challenges dairy farm development

August 28, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

If the Navy redevelops the Naval Academy Dairy Farm near Gambrills, it will seal the fate of the last self-sustaining brook trout stream in coastal Maryland, according to the Severn River Association.

The association, formed in 1911 to preserve the Severn River, claims 113 community groups and 550 individuals and couples as members.

In an Aug. 16 letter to the Naval Academy's Board of Visitors, association President Stuart Morris said that about 10 percent of the 862-acre dairy farm drains into the Jabez Branch. Development of that land "would have a disastrous impact upon the fragile water quality" of the stream, he said.

"The trout are going to be absolutely executed," Mr. Morris said.

The Jabez Branch, a narrow, shallow stream flowing from near Gambrills into Severn Run, was the last place in coastal Maryland where wild brook trout spawned. But by the late 1980s, they had died off, apparent victims of development such as the )) construction of Interstate 97 and the upgrading of Route 3.

Brook trout live in cold water with temperatures of 68 degrees or lower in the summer. They cannot tolerate temperature increases caused by runoff from paved surfaces.

In recent years, state fisheries officials have transplanted about 300 fish into the Jabez Branch. In December, environmentalists and fisheries officials celebrated a survey that turned up 10 live -- trout in the Jabez, survivors of the fish that had been placed there.

The Naval Academy Dairy Farm was founded in 1911. It supplies dairy products and juices for midshipmen and houses some educational programs.

An economic analysis of the dairy farm completed this summer indicates it "may be financially advantageous" to halt milk

production and put the site to another use, an academy spokeswoman said Friday.

Navy officials have said that they will include the Jabez Branch in any environmental studies required before developing the property. Any development plans are subject to congressional approval.

At a public hearing May 5, Navy and Anne Arundel County officials floated a preliminary plan for the dairy farm's redevelopment. The southern part of the farm would become one or two golf courses. The northern part would be kept for agricultural use.

Anne Arundel County would lease 185 acres on the western edge of the farm for a natural "passive recreation" area. The county would also lease 74 acres on the eastern side of the farm to use for ball fields, and 14 acres between Route 175 and Maple Road for offices or an indoor swimming pool.

A. L. "Red" Waldron, chairman of the Severn River Commission, BTC a watchdog group appointed by local officials, said his group has taken a joint position with the Severn River Association that the dairy farm should be kept as it is, or at least retained in some form of agricultural and educational use.

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