Commission pursues state well permits

Board tells governor it will place controls on development

Cooperation pledged

County wants to drill for water in Sykesville to meet seasonal demand

January 10, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Seeking approval to drill wells that could ease seasonal water shortages in South Carroll, the county commissioners will meet the state's demands for growth controls in environmentally sensitive areas within the Liberty Reservoir watershed, according to a letter delivered yesterday to the governor's office.

In the letter, the commissioners say they expect to sign an agreement with neighboring jurisdictions on plans to protect the watershed - an action required by the state but opposed by the previous board of Carroll commissioners.

Carroll officials said they expect the new spirit of cooperation to smooth the way for Carroll's plan to develop a series of wells at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

"Once you sign the watershed agreement, everything else falls into place," Douglas Myers, county director of public works, said. "It is a given. When you apply for an appropriations permit, they won't hold it up."

State officials repeatedly have tied the Springfield well permits to the watershed protections. Maryland Department of the Environment officials told the commissioners 18 months ago that signing the agreement would allow the county to draw more water from Liberty and gain access to the wells, according to a letter from then-Secretary Jane T. Nishida.

Carroll has had a shaky relationship with the Glendening administration and has sparred with state agencies frequently over growth issues.

After state planners said that a proposed $16 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake would promote suburban sprawl, the Environment Department refused to issue a building permit for it.

The new board of commissioners made cancellation of the treatment plant project one of its first actions last month.

The state also delayed for nearly two years issuing permits for another well in Sykesville, a delay Carroll officials attributed to the county's stance on growth. That water source, known as the Fairhaven well, eventually was approved, and came on line in late 2000.

The letter yesterday was delivered to Eugene R. Lynch, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's chief of staff. Carroll's all-Republican board of commissioners is counting on cooperation from Republican Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who will be sworn in Wednesday.

In the letter, the commissioners outlined their plans for protecting the Liberty watershed, an area that covers more than one-third of the county and includes five of its growth areas.

"This letter is an affirmation of the Board of Commissioners' commitment to work with other jurisdictions toward the best interest of the Baltimore Metropolitan Region," said the letter, signed by all three commissioners. "We trust the commitments expressed in this letter will allow Carroll County's development of the Springfield wells."

The letter discusses the county's intention to develop a watershed management plan in general terms, but promises that the commissioners and their staff will work out the details.

"Generally we are agreeing to concepts, not specifics," said Steven Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff. The changes are to be reflected in the county's water and sewer master plan, according to the letter.

The commissioners plan a public signing of the watershed agreement next month, possibly at Liberty Reservoir, said James Slater, the county's environmental compliance specialist.

South Carroll relies on water drawn from Liberty Reservoir and treated at the Freedom plant. The proposed series of wells at Springfield would add as much as 1.5 million gallons a day to the 3 million the county can take from Liberty.

Construction of the wells might not be completed by this summer, when demand often exceeds the capacity of the plant.

"I would like to wish we could get these wells on line by the summer, but right now nothing is even started," Myers said. "We have to issue requests for bids, advertise and then go through and analyze bids."

He is not giving up on the idea of pumping water by summer. "Once we have everything in line, it will go quick," said Myers. "Right now we have some fast and furious work ahead of us."

Plans call for up to six wells to connect to the Fairhaven well. Myers said he is unsure what type of treatment the well water will need, but he expects the project will entail construction of a small treatment plant on the site.

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