Mayor to take look at stream project

Stony Run reconstruction draws criticism

August 19, 2006|By TOM PELTON | TOM PELTON,SUN REPORTER

Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he will meet with his public works director to discuss a $10 million stream reconstruction project in Roland Park that has been criticized by scientists and neighbors.

But O'Malley added that he generally supports the rebuilding of Stony Run, which the city is bulldozing to add curves, dams and pools in a process that includes cutting down almost 150 trees in a popular park.

"At the end of the day, all of this is about improving the quality of our streams," O'Malley said. "We will go back and replant."

The project is designed to reduce sediment being washed by rainwater toward the Chesapeake Bay, city officials say. But critics complain the city is using an outdated and counter-productive method of cutting down scores of trees to impose artificial S-shaped curves that are likely to be washed away in storms, creating worse erosion.

"Tree removal is a really bad way to `restore' a stream," Peggy A. Johnson, head of the department of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania State University, said yesterday in an e-mail about Baltimore's Stony Run project.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has ordered the city to take steps by 2010 to reduce the amount of polluted stormwater washing down streets, parking lots and urban streams into the bay, said Ken Pensyl, an administrator at the state agency.

But the state is not requiring the rebuilding of Stony Run, Pensyl said. Other options include increasing the amount of grass-covered open spaces in the city or replacing some blacktop parking lots with surfaces that absorb water, he said.

"You would always have concerns about removing woody vegetation that is providing a buffer to a stream system," he said. "You want to do these projects as sensitively as possible."

The Stony Run meanders for 3.3 miles from near the Friends School in North Baltimore, through a wooded park used by dog walkers and joggers, and into the Jones Falls, which empties into the Baltimore harbor.

City Council Vice President Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake, who represents the district, did not return a phone call asking about her position on the project.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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