State grant will finance study of streams' health

County will use results to direct action needed

October 12, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County has secured a $40,000 state grant to help assess the health of streams in the Liberty Reservoir watershed, an area that covers nearly half the county and includes five of its planned growth areas.

The work will help in restoration efforts along the streams that eventually empty into the reservoir, the supply of drinking water for nearly 2 million people in the metropolitan area.

"We can educate ourselves to what the physical conditions of the streams are and use that information in the decision-making process," said James E. Slater Jr., Carroll's environmental compliance specialist. "We can identify places where we can do restoration efforts and gain understanding of what we have on the ground."

Once the initial assessment is complete, Carroll can decide what, if any, areas need immediate attention. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said yesterday that the effort will improve Carroll's chances in competing for federal restoration funds.

Workers will walk along the streams and map spots where erosion seems to be taking hold.

"We will be mapping for severity and fixability of problems," said Steve Nelson, water resources specialist. "This assessment will give us a really good idea of what is out there and how to address it."

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said she would like "to map whatever areas we can and see if there are actions we can take."

The grant also could pay the salary of a new employee to collect and coordinate information, said Tom Devilbiss, Carroll's hydrogeologist.

"This is a real opportunity to see what is out there," said Devilbiss. "We may find that our watershed is really in excellent shape."

In other business at their meeting yesterday, the commissioners said they will not use county money to complete construction of Ridgemont Drive in Finksburg.

"The developer should put that road in," said Gouge. "The developer has made his money and built houses before in this area."

Safety concerns had prompted the county planning department to request the $25,000 needed to close a 300-foot gap in the road. The missing segment forces residents at the southern end of Ridgemont Drive to take a circuitous 1.5-mile route through an adjoining neighborhood to leave the development - the same route emergency vehicles would take to reach them.

No homes have been built in the Ridgemont Estates subdivision since 1986. The development was planned for about 60 homes in 1976 with the final phase a 2.5-acre parcel that was slated for three homes. Ordinances in effect today would have forced the developer to complete the road regardless of lots not used.

Recent Health Department tests showed that parcel can support only one residence.

"The developer will get a lot of money for this property and could afford to build the road," said Gouge. "If he wants to build the house, he has to build the road."

The county might consider the project with a guarantee of reimbursement for the road costs from the developer, said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. He has asked the county attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow forward funding of such projects.

"I want an ordinance that says we will fully fund streets to complete a development as long as we are reimbursed," said Dell.

Also yesterday, the commissioners accepted $96,000 in state grants to add employees at the Sheriff's Department and the state's attorney's office to combat domestic violence. A $39,000 grant will help pay for an additional prosecutor who will focus on drug offenders.

Sun staff writer Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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