Life chokes as lake dries

Resident seeks money to buy water to help basin's fish and fowl

Algae absorbing oxygen

July 30, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Like worried watermen and environmentalists along the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, Crofton residents are helplessly standing by as the heat wave wipes out the life in their community pond along Route 3.

For the second time in as many years, Lake Louise has dried up with the drought. Several dozen fish and water birds that had made the 4-acre lake in front of the Crofton community gates their home have died in recent days.

The intense heat has contributed to an algae population boom, and when that plant dies it absorbs oxygen in the lake. According to officials at the Maryland Department of the Environment, the same thing is happening in many of the waterways leading to the bay.

"We've seen some fish kills where the heat has heated the water and killed about 20,000 yellow perch," said Quentin Banks, a spokesman to MDE. "Some of the [oxygen] readings we're seeing in the Patapsco and Magothy [rivers] are near zero."

The heat and lack of rain this summer has caused such a problem in Maryland that Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday declared a drought emergency and called for voluntary water conservation.

Last year, when the heat struck, the Crofton Civic Association bought about 1 million gallons of water from Anne Arundel County to refresh its pond.

This year, Melissa Heim, a longtime resident and nature lover, took on the burden.

"I'm not real comfortable with saying, `It's drying up; that's the way nature intended,' " said Heim, who lives in Cedar Grove. "You can't just let it go. There's fish that are just dying and washing up on shore; birds are croaking. Fortunately, there's lots of people who are willing to do something."

Tuesday evening, after seeing a white crane that had become a visitor to the pond die, Heim started calling pool services to price water. Then she went door-to-door on Fallowfield Court and collected $400 in three hours.

The next day, Rand's Transport Inc. of Linthicum pumped 60,000 gallons of water into the lake, "which basically put a puddle in it," Heim said. But it was enough to breathe life into the listless wildlife.

"Fish started moving and jumping; the ducks started moving. The geese even came down to see what was going on," Heim said. "Everything just came to life."

Heim and her roommates expected to hit the streets again last night to solicit donations. They are hoping to raise more than $3,500 to buy 1 million gallons for the pond until someone can come up with a long-term solution.

Meanwhile, Crofton residents are split over the idea of using tax dollars from the special community benefits district to fill the lake again. According to Town Manager Barbara Swann, it would probably take about 4 million gallons of water to restore it to proper levels.

She said donations to help Lake Louise wildlife are being taken at town hall, but the money will not be spent until the region has seen some drought relief. "We're not going to take water away from people who need it," Swann said. "We want to be sure we're not creating problems for anyone else."

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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