Water pipeline planned to increase Howard supply

Some worry conduit would encourage suburban sprawl

August 29, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After two decades of careful planning, engineers are finally ready to design and build a 4-foot-diameter pipe to help bring 30 million gallons of water a day from Baltimore City to Howard County.

The design should be finished by next summer, and construction is expected to begin in January 2001, engineers said.

The engineers have worked closely with civic activists in West Baltimore, who were concerned that construction of the huge pipeline would cut a 60-foot swath through Leakin Park.

The new pipeline will serve office buildings, homes and businesses coming to Howard County through 2025. Despite that, the boundaries of the eastern portion of Howard served by public water and sewer won't expand, so although people have raised questions about development, county and state officials say the new pipe fits the concept of Smart Growth.

Some, however, are not so confident.

"We're aiding and abetting the loss of population" from Baltimore, said Nancy Davis, a Fulton resident active with the Sierra Club who is worried about water availability and continued development in Howard County.

David A. Carroll, a Windsor Hills resident and Maryland secretary of the environment under Gov. William Donald Schaefer, shares Davis' concerns. "Why is Howard County continuing to build water pipes to serve sprawl growth?" Carroll said. That, he said, "just makes it easier for people to leave the city."

"You can't stop growth in Howard County," Howard County Executive James N. Robey said. Without the new water pipeline, county officials said, they would have to stop issuing building permits in approximately 10 years. "It would be economically devastating," Robey said. "That's not Smart Growth."

Howard County has put $10 million in its capital budget for the project.

Ronald N. Young, Maryland's deputy planning director, said construction in the developed sections of eastern Howard County follows the dictates of Smart Growth, as does redevelopment of Baltimore's older neighborhoods.

""Maryland's going to grow by more than 1 million people in the next 20 years," Young said. "Baltimore could easily absorb 200,000 or 300,000 of those people."

In the southern part of Howard County, some residents are upset about two proposed mixed-use developments during the next five to 10 years on undeveloped land along Route 216.

County public works director James M. Irvin said the new pipe isn't needed to serve those projects. "We're assuming that even if those two projects didn't happen, there would still be 2,500 units per year of development," he said.

One thing everyone seems to agree on is a tentative new route for the pipeline through Leakin Park.

The original plan was for the line to follow the old pipe's route through the center of the park, crossing Deep Run stream at least three times, and requiring the cutting down of hundreds of mature trees.

After at least eight community meetings with neighbors and friends of the park, said Frank H. Donaldson, vice president of Riemer Muegge and Associates, the consulting engineers designing a critical part of the project, the route will skirt Leakin Park along Franklintown Road and Winans Way. It will move northwest along the park boundary to the Baltimore County line, where it will cross under Cooks Lane and then follow Forest Park Avenue to U.S. 40 and Howard County.

Although the route is not official, Margaret Martin, subcommittee chairwoman for the Parks and People Foundation, said she's "been very impressed" by negotiations with the engineers. "They really went out on a limb to take care of community concerns," she said.

Others agree. David Hollander, president of the Gwynns Falls Watershed Association, said, "I'm satisfied that we've minimized the impact." But with all the predictions of population growth, he also wonders about the future. "Hey, [water] is a finite resource. This can't go on forever," he said.

Pub Date: 8/29/99

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