Herbert Sachs, state water and environmental resources official

Herbert Myron Sachs, a retired state water and environmental resources official who also led the Potomac River Basin Commission, died of a stroke April 12 at his Annapolis home. He was 82.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Springdale Avenue, he was the son of Joseph Sachs, who worked in his family's overalls business, and Elsie Sachs. He was a 1951 graduate of Forest Park High School.

He earned a bachelor's degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland, College Park and had a master's degree in natural resources administration from the University of Michigan.

Family members said Mr. Sachs spent his boyhood summers as a camper and later a counselor at Camp Airy in Thurmont, where he developed an appreciation for water, wilderness and food cooked over a campfire. He later served in the Army in Alaska, where he furthered his love for the outdoors.

He spent time fishing in rivers and streams.

He joined the Maryland State Department of Planning in 1962 as a water resources planner.

"He drafted the legislation that created the department of water resources," said a daughter, Elizabeth Sachs. "People said he could part the governmental red tape like Moses parted the Red Sea."

He also supervised studies leading to the creation of Assateague State Park and the Department of Chesapeake Bay Affairs.

After a state reorganization, he became director of the Water Resources Administration in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. He worked in water pollution control, wetlands management and other issues.

From 1978 to 1988, he was assistant secretary of the department and oversaw water resources, the Maryland Environmental Service and the Maryland Geological Survey.

From 1992 to 1997 he led the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and worked from a Rockville office.

In 1998, he rejoined the state as a special projects coordinator for the Maryland Department of the Environment. He was a representative on the Patuxent River Commission and served on the State Soil Conservation Committee. He retired in 2012, and a portion of a roadway in Annapolis was named in his honor.

"He was a dedicated professional and a dedicated family man," said John Griffin, former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. "He was a real mainstay of our department. He had a good heart and would work with people."

Family members said that during his lengthy career, he also served two terms as a member of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

"My father devoted his life to enacting pioneering public policies and programs that defend and restore the beautiful Chesapeake Bay he so loved," said his daughter, who lives in New Orleans.

"He lived every day with a sense of justice. He believed in the power government and its ability to solve the problems we face. He was an extraordinary leader. He was truly gifted at getting the scientists and the decision makers to the table. A lot of the work that he accomplished set a standard for estuary management all over."

She said her father had the ability to bring opposite sides to the table.

"He was willing to meet with the chicken farmers and the miners," his daughter said. "He had a quality and a talent for wise leadership. He could take action in the face of incredible pressure.

"He thrived on how you make things happen when you have very different interests," she said.

Mr. Sachs was a reader of daily newspapers and enjoyed discussing history and politics.

"My father believed in civic duty, diplomacy, underdogs and the right winter clothes," said his daughter.

She said her father prepared family breakfasts daily and packed lunches for his wife and children.

When he worked in Baltimore at the Department of the Environment headquarters, he often left his Washington Boulevard office and drove to Attman's delicatessen. There he bought corned beef and pastrami sandwiches and half-sour pickles for his family and friends. He also enjoyed bagels and lox on weekends in Annapolis.

He was also partial to a good cup of coffee and Maryland rye, his daughter said.

"He adored his home, his porch, his yard, his neighborhood and Navy football. He attended all the home games," said his daughter. She said he followed sports but would leave the room if he felt that two teams were not properly matched.

"He liked games played by equals," his daughter said. "He had a sense of fairness and would not tolerate a powerhouse beating up on a little guy."

Services were held April 18 in Annapolis.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 48 years, Ann Quinn, a speech pathologist; a son, Abraham Sachs of Vienna, Va.; two other daughters, Margaret Sachs Cabe of Columbia, S.C., and Emily Sachs of Baltimore; a brother, Robert Sachs of Bel Air; and three grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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