Official delaying review of watershed

Dell says streams that feed reservoir are fine

January 04, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell has delayed an environmental assessment of streams in the Liberty Reservoir watershed - an area that covers half the county - until he is convinced that such a study is necessary.

Dell opposes the study, even though the county has a $40,000 state grant that would pay for the research and one year's salary for a contractual employee to collect and coordinate information.

Critical of studies initiated by what he called "too many self-appointed conservationists," Dell said the Liberty Reservoir watershed, which includes five of Carroll's planned growth areas, is in great shape.

"Liberty already has the cleanest water in the area," Dell said yesterday at a commissioners' meeting. "Is there really a need for this study? There are already regulations in place. We are already cautious about the water supply. How much more can we do?

"So many of these things turn into job security for somebody," he said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge urged Dell to reconsider and to move forward with the study.

The grant expires at the end of this year.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier is out of the country.

"It will be good for us to know where everything is, and it will help us with finding well sites in the future," Gouge said.

Carroll planners have drafted a letter to property owners living along the streams, seeking permission to walk the shorelines to evaluate and document the conditions.

But Dell delayed the mailing.

"I want to think this thing through," said Dell. "There is too much overkill."

Liberty Reservoir provides drinking water to nearly 2 million people in the Baltimore area, including about 18,000 South Carroll residents.

Dell also has opposed a much broader effort to protect the watershed - an unofficial agreement among the metropolitan counties and Baltimore City. Carroll has yet to endorse the long-standing watershed protection agreement because Dell and Frazier contend it infringes on the commissioners' land-use authority.

The restoration study would provide the county with field data on the physical condition of the feeder streams and give planners a more complete picture of erosion affecting those waterways. The research could help in future restoration efforts, said Steve Nelson, county water resources specialist.

"To date, there has been no broad look from the perspective of the streams that drain into the reservoir," Nelson said. "Our goal is to detail problems associated with stream systems and see the impacts to the water quality of Liberty Reservoir."

Dell said he has "real reservations about the county promoting stream walks" on private property.

"What would they be looking for that we are not already taking care of?" he asked. "This grant is taxpayer money that comes out of our pockets. We are doing enough to protect our streams."

If he cannot determine the rationale for the study, Dell said, he would be willing to return the money to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The study would include a look at water that runs into the streams from residential and commercial developments and farms. The streams would include Piney Run, Morgan Run, Little Morgan Run, and many unnamed waters.

"If upgrades are recommended to the system, who pays?" Dell asked.

The work is a necessary step to obtain future grants for restoration work and could improve Carroll's chances to compete for federal dollars, officials said.

"We should take advantage of this and get the funds," said Jeanne Joiner, county director of planning. "We may be required to do it in the future, anyway."

Gouge said the study would help the county address improvements that might be necessary.

Many older residential subdivisions predate today's strict storm water management regulations.

Runoff from those developments could affect the streams, she said.

"We might see areas that need more buffers because of runoff," Gouge said.

"There are residential subdivisions with no storm water management that could have contaminants running down into the streams," she said.

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