Groups seek protection for Jabez

October 04, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Two conservation groups are asking the state and county to spend $1 million or more to buy as much woods along Jabez Branch as possible to prevent its development and to further efforts to re-establish trout in the tributary to the Severn River.

The Severn River Association and the Severn River Commission have sent letters to state and county officials, asking them to buy the land in order to keep South Shore Development Co. from building 78 houses on the 141.68-acre Holladay Park tract near Millersville. Both organizations fear increased storm water runoff caused by development could damage the shallow left fork of the stream.

Darryl Claggett, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said state officials are considering the request and have begun talks with the landowner. County officials said they have not received the letter.

Robert Baldwin, president of South Shore Development, said the DNR initially inquired about buying the entire tract but also has "discussed buying just part of it."

The Jabez was the last natural brook trout stream in the Maryland coastal plain and the southernmost wild native trout creek in the state before runoff from highway construction and new houses killed the fish in the late 1980s. The DNR moved about 300 wild brook trout to the stream in 1991 and 1992, trying to start a new population there. Surveys last winter showed 10 of them survived but had not produced any young.

"The trout, they are the living symbol of the protection of the Jabez," said Stuart G. Morris, president of the Severn River Association. "But to do that, you've got to protect the land there."

"It is one of the few wooded areas left. The claim to fame by Jabez was that it was one of the few natural trout streams left," said A. L. "Red" Waldron, chairman of the Severn River Commission.

The SRC and SRA are urging the state agency and Anne Arundel County officials to use federal transportation funds designated to mitigate highway construction, state open space dollars and whatever county funds can be tapped to buy as much of the tract as they can from South Shore, a family company controlled by Thomas and Robert Baldwin.

Up to $500,000 could be available in a federal transportation grant, according to the letter. The money has to be matched with state funds.

"It would be a very major effort toward protecting this very, very sensitive area," said Severn River Commissioner Lina Vlavianos. "We have a million dollars sitting."

She said she considers the request urgent, because conservationists would have to familiarize new state and local officials with the

problem when new administrations take office after the November elections.

"The problem is controlling runoff from impervious surfaces and roads and things like that," said Robert A. Bachman, director of the Fish, Heritage and Wildlife Administration of the Department of Natural Resources.

The forest helps do that. Between cool springs that feed the left fork, and the rain that percolates through the soil in the woods, the water in the creek can stay cool and pure enough for trout.

But a 1991 DNR study found that storm water flowing across heated pavement can raise the stream temperature to 80 degrees. Brook trout cannot live in water above 70 degrees.

Water rushing off paved surfaces also washes away fish hiding places and erodes silt that smothers eggs. Even the insects fish feed on vanish.

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