Golf course group takes another swing at easing water rule

Managers say 30% cut will keep greens green

other businesses ask relief

August 24, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Maryland's golf course industry planned to head back to the state today with a new request to ease water restrictions, as landscapers, sod farmers and other businesses also clamored for relief.

The new request -- from a golf course managers' group -- asks that watering of fairways be cut by 30 percent, rather than 80 percent the state has required since Aug. 4.

Maryland officials rejected an earlier request from a golf course owners' group for a 10 percent reduction.

Sod farmers say they also want state restrictions lifted to allow their customers to water newly replanted grass. Landscapers, nursery owners and similar businesses say they want to see restrictions eased, too.

"I know the government can't make it rain, but the government can stand up and pay attention to our concerns," said Harry T. Redmon, owner of Child's Landscaping in Anne Arundel County.

Christopher R. Ayers, a Rockville golf course manager and treasurer of the Golf Course Superintendents Association's mid-Atlantic chapter, said the request on behalf of golf courses would be filed today.

"We're going to be asking for 30 percent, but it's still negotiable," Ayers said. "We're not going to draw a line in the sand. We're trying to find out if there's some common ground."

Ayers said the 30 percent figure is based on what experts at University of Maryland, College Park say is a reasonable cutback that would keep fairway grass alive.

Ayers said golf course managers recognize the need to conserve water. "We're not asking for rescinding the restrictions," he said.

J. L. Hearn, director of water management at the Maryland Department of the Environment, said he could not speculate on how state officials might rule on the request. Hearn said the golf group would have to present "clear and convincing evidence of economic hardship" and demonstrate a good-faith effort to take other steps to reduce their water use.

Mike Morrill, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said yesterday he doubts that the latest waiver request would be approved. "If they're talking about 30 percent on fairways, it's not likely to happen," Morrill said.

Nurseries, garden centers and landscapers say they also are being hurt economically and, in some cases, are having to lay off employees.

"This industry is being affected big time," said Redmon, the Anne Arundel County landscaper, who also owns a retail garden center. "My sales, along with some of my competition's sales, are down 40 percent."

Redmon said he expects he will have to lay off 35 to 40 of his 100 workers.

Redmon said homebuilders have stopped landscaping, while parks, schools, shopping centers and others businesses have put planned projects on hold because of water restrictions.

"We're not looking for a handout, we're just looking to get back to work," Redmon said.

Redmon said he and other landscapers, nursery owners and similar businesses are trying to form an alliance to push for changes in state water restrictions. He said such businesses also should be eligible for federal low-interest loans, similar to those offered to drought-stricken farmers.

Sod farmers say their business is almost completely shut down because they have no buyers for sod that cannot be watered. They filed a request for a waiver last week to allow watering of newly planted yards, a request under review by the state.

In his application, Maryland Turfgrass Association President Gary A. Wilber said sod farmers would be willing to cut back to a four-day workweek to help save water.

"We're reasonable people," Wilber said. "If we could get back to work even four days a week, that would be much better than nothing."

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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