Governor says burying cable under bay is `unacceptable'

Plan would cause harm to fragile estuary bottom

August 22, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

A day after a California company withdrew plans to bury more than 300 miles of fiber-optic cable under the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, Gov. Parris N. Glendening effectively quashed any approval of the plan during the remainder of his term.

In a pointed letter to state and federal regulators yesterday, Glendening said the plan would set an "unacceptable precedent" and told officials of the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Clear Stream Communications Inc. of Sacramento should consider other options.

State officials say such alternatives might include running cable along state highways, if the company decides to resubmit a plan seeking permits to build a telecommunications network here.

"Given the fragile nature of the Chesapeake Bay's current ecosystem, I believe any disturbance to the bay bottom, particularly when alternatives are possible, intuitively runs counter to the state's on-going efforts," Glendening wrote.

Glendening also criticized the agencies for not being more communicative about the project, which state and local officials in Anne Arundel County said they knew nothing about.

The governor learned about the plan from MDE officials about two weeks ago, said spokesman Chuck Porcari - about the same time Anne Arundel officials heard rumors about the plan and began questioning its economic viability and environmental impact.

Porcari said the governor immediately expressed concerns about its effect on the bay.

ClearStream officials said Tuesday that the company had withdrawn its plans, which were up for public comment before the corps and MDE, because it needed to update data about oyster seeding and commercial fishing areas.

The company also wanted to expand the planned network into the upper Chesapeake so that it could connect through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to a network that would run north of New York.

Frank Petro, ClearStream's acting chief executive officer, said Tuesday the company would decide whether to resubmit the plan after revising it during the next few months.

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