Hogan puts up money for Back River midge treatment

Gov. Hogan put up money for Back River midge treatment, then dinged Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz.

Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced plans to spend $330,000 on treating "hotspots" of midges in Baltimore County's Back River this year.

Hogan said the state is funding the treatments to help marinas, restaurants and local residents who find the small insects to be a nuisance.

In announcing the funding, Hogan took a swipe at Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who has declined to put county money into a midge eradication program. Kamenetz has said the proposed treatments would not be sufficient to treat the problem.

"The county really has the responsibility to address the problem but has continually refused to do anything about it, and has ignored the pleas of Baltimore County citizens," Hogan said in a statement. "Despite the county's refusal to act, we have decided to move forward anyway."

Kamenetz didn't directly respond to the governor, but his office issued a statement from the county's top environmental official, Vince Gardina.

Gardina called the midge treatments a "Band-Aid approach" that is a waste of taxpayer money.

"Baltimore County chooses to use environmental restoration funding based on proven science and known results," Gardina said. "Furthermore, Back River is a waterway of the State of Maryland as such is the State's responsibility to manage."

Last fall, Hogan proposed that the county and state split the cost of $1.3 million to pay for midge treatments.

A state study concluded that the cause of the midge population was likely nutrient pollution from the nearby Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is being upgraded.

Gardina said the focus for dealing with midges needs to be continuing the work at the sewage treatment plant and possibly removing pollution-laden sediment at the bottom of the river.

"While this may be difficult and impractical, the solution proposed by Governor Hogan is completely political and will have no real results, setting unrealistic expectations for the public," Gardina said.

Midges don't bite and aren't considered a health threat, but their swarms are a nuisance for boaters and others who use the river.

Hogan's office said the decision on where to apply the midge treatment will be made by the state's departments of agriculture and natural resources. The departments will assess the effectiveness of the treatments.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, and Hogan, a Republican, have clashed on several issues over the past couple of years, including: the pace of installing air conditioning in county schools, selling a county government center to a shopping center developer, building an equestrian facility at the county's agricultural center and a law that requires the state to rank the transportation projects it plans to fund.

Kamenetz is among several Democrats weighing whether to run for governor against Hogan next year.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
70°