More bog buffer sought

Stricter development restrictions wanted by council members

`Absolutely essential'

Proposal would expand the areas to be protected

January 28, 2001|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Two Anne Arundel County Council members are drafting legislation to strengthen development restrictions on land surrounding ecologically rare, valuable and historic bogs on Pasadena's Mountain Road peninsula.

The proposal sponsored by Shirley Murphy and Barbara D. Samorajczyk - both Democrats - expands the areas to be protected and lists required measures to guard the fragile bogs in instances where disturbance is unavoidable.

The effort is an attempt to build on emergency state regulations that took effect in September, increasing the bogs' 25-foot protective buffer to 100 feet.

Murphy, who is council chairwoman, and Samorajczyk said they wanted to establish a local layer of protection because land-use issues are decided at the county level. "The state has done as much as it can do," said Samorajczyk, who represents the Annapolis area. She said she hopes to introduce the legislation within 60 days.

The proposal is based on the recommendations of state and county officials, biologists and environmentalists who began meeting in the fall with the two council members to devise stronger protections for the bogs, which are clustered on the north shore of the Magothy River in Murphy's district.

Gary T. Setzer, administrator of the wetlands and waterways program under the state Department of the Environment, said the proposed legislation could be the most effective way to save the 10 Mountain Road bogs.

"The county can take a more unified approach to development in the entire watershed," said Setzer. "It's their land-use controls that will make this a success."

Members of the Magothy River Land Trust, a leader in the effort to preserve the bogs, support the tighter controls.

"We think this will leave a real, lasting legacy of protection," said Sally Hornor, a trust board member and ecology professor at Anne Arundel Community College.

Bogs are acidic wetlands that provide habitats where only a few plant species can survive, including coast sedge, cranberries and giant cane, Maryland's only native bamboo species. Some Pasadena bogs sprout flamboyantly colored blooms, and one contains carnivorous pitcher plants.

The bogs are natural filters for water that eventually ends up in the Chesapeake Bay, and are sensitive to storm-water runoff.

"We feel it is absolutely essential to have an increased buffer where these species remain," said David J. Wallace, president of the Severn River Association.

"We want to make sure that any development has enhanced filtration so we don't have runoff from driveways and roofs because it will literally kill the remaining species in the bogs," said Wallace, who served on the committee to develop stricter bog protection.

The legislation would establish three bog buffer zones - 100 feet, 300 feet and areas in the watershed that drain into the habitats.

The buffer zones closest to the bogs prohibit disturbance of the areas, except for decks - which must include runoff prevention features - and sheds measuring less than 150 square feet.

In the drainage area, the proposal prohibits direct storm-water discharge into the bogs, limits paved surfaces to between 15 percent and 31 percent on existing lots and to 10 percent on a new development site.

It calls for natural storm-water management practices when possible, including retention of forests and open space. "They're nurseries and filters for pollutants, and without them we lose our biodiversity of both plants and animals," said Samorajczyk. "They're just critical ecologically."

In the past 18 months, preservation of the Pasadena bogs has become a cooperative effort among state and county officials and legislators, as well as area environmental groups.

It was the Magothy River Land Trust and Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee that focused attention on the bogs, when the two groups teamed up two years ago to apply for a $7.6 million Rural Legacy grant to purchase 1,000 acres for a Magothy River greenway.

The groups failed to win the grant, but during the research stage for the long application, two bog experts discovered more bogs in the area.

The land trust is seeking conservation easements from property owners within the Magothy watershed.

Scientists say the Mountain Road bogs thrive because of a special band of soil with coarse-grain sand that runs from Gibson Island to Odenton.

"There appears to be an interlocking between all of these bogs, a bog complex," Setzer said. "We'd like to make people understand that it's a continuous system."

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