State Digest


April 28, 2006

Coast Guard lauded on craft-weight rule

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board praised the Coast Guard yesterday for its adoption of higher standards for average passenger weight in calculating passenger vessel capacity - a move the board had recommended in the aftermath of the fatal capsizing of a water taxi in Baltimore harbor in 2004.

Mark V. Rosenker, acting chairman of the NTSB, said the board was "very pleased that the Coast Guard is taking steps to address the passenger-weight issue."

As a result of the investigation into the capsizing of the pontoon boat Lady D on March 6, 2004, the board recommended that the Coast Guard adopt interim weight standards before going through the often-long process of formal rule-making.

Five people were killed in the Lady D accident, which the board attributed in large part to overloading of the boat. The board found the boat was carrying about 600 pounds more than it was rated to carry - even though it was within its passenger limit.

The board noted that the weight assumptions used to set vessel capacities had not been revised since the 1940s, when the average American was much lighter than today. The Coast Guard urged vessel operators to voluntarily comply with a new average weight assumption of 185 pounds.

Michael Dresser

Dorchester Co.

Department of Interior asked to review project near refuge

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is asking the U.S. Department of the Interior to review plans for a 3,200-home development in Dorchester County that is near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

In a letter, the foundation asked the federal agency to request that local and state agencies thoroughly and scientifically determine whether the proposed development will harm the refuge and the endangered species that call it home.

The foundation has filed a lawsuit against the county for its decision to allow the $1 billion resort to go forward. It has been sounding the alarm that the development will harm pristine natural areas and farmland around Cambridge. Foundation officials told the General Assembly that potential water quality degradation from the development, which also includes a hotel, conference center and golf course, had not been adequately studied.

Though the foundation's litigation is pending, the Blackwater Resort project has gotten most of the approvals it needs. A General Assembly bill that would have limited the project's scope was voted down.

The only other major hurdle the project has to clear is the Critical Areas Commission, most of whose members are appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Rona Kobell

Allegany Co.

Coal company appeals order and $50,000 pollution fine

Buffalo Coal Co. Inc. has appealed a state order to pay a $50,000 fine and stop polluting a stream near the company's Phillips surface mine near Lonaconing, the company and a Department of the Environment spokeswoman said yesterday.

The company, based in Oakland, has requested a hearing on the administrative complaint, order and penalty issued April 12.

"We basically are appealing it because we feel that the penalty is not commensurate with the alleged action," said James Christie, a lawyer for the company.

MDE spokeswoman Julie Oberg said Buffalo continues to discharge wastewater into Jackson Run, a tributary of Georges Creek, that exceeds the permitted limits for acidity, manganese and total suspended solids.

Associated Press

Frederick Co.

Water-rights suit that involves Bartlett is dismissed by judge

A water-rights lawsuit brought by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and a retirement-community developer against Frederick County has been dismissed by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge William S. Nickerson in Baltimore issued the decision Tuesday, rejecting Bartlett's quest to tap into a 15-mile water pipeline the county is building from the Potomac River to Frederick. The line will cross Bartlett's property south of the city.

Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, and American Heritage Communities Inc. had planned to develop a 100-bed nursing home and retirement community for 1,617 residents on 104 acres of the congressman's land. They claimed the county reneged on a 1998 contract granting him access to water and sewer lines on the property.

Nickerson found that the contract allowed only existing buildings to connect to a sewer line on the property.

Bartlett would not comment on the case.

Associated Press


Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO chapter backs Franchot over Schaefer

Maryland's largest labor organization is backing the challenger instead of the incumbent in the Democratic primary for state comptroller.

The Maryland and District of Columbia chapter of the AFL-CIO voted this week to endorse Montgomery County Del. Peter Franchot's challenge to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

The comptroller serves on the Board of Public Works, which approves state contracts.

Associated Press

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