Carroll threatens to abandon reservoir pact with Baltimore

Commissioner rejects city's limits on growth in county

September 01, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County will no longer participate in a regional agreement to protect the area around Liberty Reservoir unless growth restrictions are lifted, County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge told the Baltimore Metropolitan Council yesterday. Baltimore is trying to stymie growth in Carroll County, she said at the meeting in Baltimore.

The Watershed Management Agreement, negotiated nearly 20 years ago and reaffirmed every few years, gives Baltimore control over 160 square miles surrounding the reservoir -- nearly all of it in Carroll County. The city and three other metropolitan counties -- Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford -- reaffirmed the agreement in 1996. But Carroll has been insisting on revisions and would not re-sign the document.

"The bottom line is we don't have to be part of the agreement. We can do without it," said Gouge. "Carroll has serious problems with the wording of this agreement."

Carroll will continue to protect the 43-billion-gallon lake, the source of drinking water for 1.6 million people in the Baltimore area, but it must be free from restraints imposed by other jurisdictions, Gouge said.

The county's stance could imperil Carroll's request to increase by 2 million gallons its 3 million gallons-a-day draw from the reservoir. Carroll is also negotiating with the city for land to expand its treatment plant. Gouge said she does not expect her comments to affect those discussions.

Gouge said Carroll has a long history of protecting the watershed and has earned the right to determine how and where the county will grow.

"Have we ever told Baltimore it could not do something in the city?" Gouge asked.

"One jurisdiction cannot say `no development' to another," she said. "We are working for the good of all. We will not put ourselves in a position that is subservient. We have rights as well."

Baltimore wants the agreement affirmed as written, said Ralph Cullison of Baltimore's Public Works Department. Any change would weaken the agreement and establish a pattern of decline in the water supply, he said.

Runoff from development could cause silt to build up, decreasing the reservoir's capacity, Cullison said. One stream that feeds the reservoir, Morgan Run, has increased levels of chloride and nitrates because of development, said William Stack, a city administrator.

"It is not our intention to make Carroll County subservient to Baltimore City," Cullison said. "We have to balance their need for growth with ours for water quality."

The watershed extends from South Carroll to the central county and includes Eldersburg, Finksburg and Westminster.

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