Environmentalists name watersheds in Maryland that need to be restored State seeks $1.4 million in federal cleanup money

September 18, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Hoping to win more than a million dollars in federal cleanup money, state environmentalists have named 49 Maryland watersheds most in need of restoration, including Baltimore's Harbor and the Eastern Shore's Pocomoke River, where Pfiesteria is suspected of sickening watermen and killing thousands of fish last year.

Also on the list is the Wye River, where a shellfishing ban goes into effect Sept. 28 because of high levels of bacteria.

Other Baltimore metropolitan watersheds on the list include: the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, Severn River, the South River, the Patuxent River, the Little Patuxent River, Back River, Bush River and Swan Creek.

State officials are preparing a report to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency by the end of October, listing watersheds it would clean up with the money.

The state is seeking $1.4 million this year as part of the Clean Water Action Plan announced by President Clinton in February, said Paul Massicot, director of Resource Assessment Service for the state Department of Natural Resources.

"It's a pittance for the work that needs to be done, but it's a nice incentive," Massicot said. He said that while not all the money Clinton wanted for the program is likely to be funded, the state has a good chance of getting the $1.4 million.

In selecting which of the state's 138 watersheds to clean up and protect, a committee of government officials, preservationists, farmers and business representatives weighed 17 criteria. They included pollutant levels, wildlife, the landscape surrounding the streams and whether the streams feed into drinking water supplies.

The committee reviewed existing data in making the selections, and some watersheds might still be added.

Besides finding watersheds in need of restoration, the committee also listed watersheds that need to be preserved, although they would get no special priority for funding, said Massicot. In the Baltimore area, they include the Lower Susquehanna, Deer Creek, Conowingo Dam, Prettyboy Reservoir, Gwynns Falls, Liberty Reservoir and the south branch of the Patapsco River.

Eleven Maryland watersheds fell into both the cleanup and protection categories: Gwynns Falls, Lower Pocomoke River, Wye River, Upper Elk River, Mattawoman Creek, Seneca Creek, Lower Monocacy, Upper Monocacy, Antietam Creek, George's Creek and Deep Creek Lake.

Massicot said the committee was surprised to learn that health of the streams varied tremendously, even within the same watershed. For example, trout spawn in the upper waters of the Jones Falls, but the water travels through the city and eventually into a pipe before flowing into the Harbor.

If Maryland receives the grant, local preservation groups would be asked to submit plans for how they could use the money to clean up their watersheds. A committee would review the grants applications and select the winners. Money probably would not be available until the middle of next year, Massicot said.

The state is holding meetings throughout the state to solicit comments from residents before the report is submitted to the federal government.

The remaining meetings to receive public comment will be held Wednesday in Frederick and Sept. 29 in Salisbury.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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