County to accept $20,000 state grant to reinforce banks of Longwell Run But stream plans dropped last fall won't be revived

July 01, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners are accepting a state grant to shore up the banks of Longwell Run. But that doesn't mean they are reconsidering their decision to return other state and federal grants that would have completed four years of work on the Westminster stream.

The $20,000 grant approved by the state Board of Public Works last week will go toward reinforcing the banks of the 1.7-mile stream with rocks and plants, part of a long-term project to reverse the effects of years of degradation.

The latest grant will continue the work on Longwell Run, which flows west along a heavily commercial area of Route 140, then joins a branch of the stream at Route 27 and turns northeast.

But Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the county has no plans to revive portions of the project dropped in October, when the commissioners voted to return $81,000 in federal money after concerns that the project was too ambitious and was taking too much staff time.

"Nobody has come back to us with any further plans," Dell said.

In 1994, the county and Westminster launched an $800,000 stream restoration project, funded mainly through state and federal grants.

Longwell Run had been "subjected to many years of unmanaged storm runoff causing extensive stream degradation and loss of habitat," a 1993 consultant's study reported.

To date, $634,000 has been spent on the restoration project. Major work included construction of the Winter Street storm-water management pond in Westminster and creation of a wetland in a county park on North Center Street, adjacent to the county office building.

But last fall, Environmental Services Administrator James E. Slater Jr. told the commissioners that the federal grant required too much of the project to be accomplished in too short a time. He said the Longwell Run project was taking too much staff time from other projects.

The section of the stream that would have been improved with the grants the county returned runs northeast along Route 27 from the Route 140 underpass to Hahn Road.

Former Longwell Run project manager Laura Moran had argued strongly that cutting off part of the project would reduce benefits to the degraded stream. The decision eliminated her job, leaving the remaining Longwell Run work without a full-time manager.

Longwell Run lost its watchdog in March when environmental activist Monroe G. Haines quit after spending 12 years trying to ++ clean up the stream. Haines, 75, a Westminster resident, HTC resigned his volunteer task after a series of disputes with county government officials.

The latest state grant -- supplemented by a $19,500 county contribution and $23,000 from the federal government -- is for work on stream banks and construction of a series of pools in the stream to slow storm water. The work will be done on the stream south of Route 27, with construction scheduled to begin in August 1999.

Dell said county employees have told him work will also be done next year on Longwell Run near Manchester Avenue, where the stream frequently overflows its banks during heavy storms, flooding an auto repair business.

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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