Harford County’s Development Advisory Board (DAC) is in the process of approving the destruction of 326 acres of mature forests in the Bush River Watershed. This forest contains the headwaters and majority of Haha Branch before it runs under Routes 7 and 40 and empties into Otter Point Creek. Haha Branch is an important tributary of both the Bush River and Chesapeake Bay Watersheds. The loss of such a valuable ecosystem would perhaps be justified in order to build a hospital, school or YMCA which would benefit the community. But rather, it will be paved over to build warehouses and large parking lots. Interestingly, there are currently 32 vacant warehouses in Joppa alone.

The County Council voted to include the forest in the Edgewood/Joppa Enterprise zone which will give the developer tax breaks for destroying the forest, increasing traffic and degrading our water quality. The Enterprise zone was established to provide incentives to businesses for the re-development of abandoned and under utilized sections of Route 40 that have existing infrastructure. Incorporating the forest into this zone is a complete departure from the original intent of the law. The only councilmember who voted against this incorporation was Councilman Andre Johnson, representative of the Edgewood/Abingdon district where the forest is located.

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As part of the Watershed in My Backyard unit, my environmental science students at Edgewood High School would spend several weeks reviewing and making watershed maps of Harford County with an emphasis on the Bush River Watershed. Students learned to judge water quality by conducting conventional chemical tests such as dissolved oxygen and pH. They also learned to conduct the Save Our Streams protocol of biological monitoring by seining for insects and other aquatic organisms. Students learned the golden rule of water quality — “Do unto the land as you would do to the water." Water quality actually starts on the land. In fact, the most important parameter for good water quality is the health of the watershed — “the land surrounding a body of water which sheds water into that body.”

Heritage trees, those over 30 inches in diameter, are protected from being cut down. However, this developer has applied for a waiver from the county to cut 53 of the 78 heritage trees “in their way." One justification they gave for the waiver is “The removal of these trees will not affect water quality."

Harford County citizens know better than this, even if their elected county officials do not.

Maryland State Environmental officials recently stepped in to protect 200 acres of forests in Charles County from development in an “effort to protect water quality.” The dead zone in the Chesapeake grew to 2 cubic miles in August. Forests are invaluable filters for water and air pollution, regulate climate, prevent flooding and provide habitat for wildlife.

This really is a quality of life issue for the citizens of Harford County, especially the residents within the development envelope. Increasing pollution, outrageous traffic, and loss of open space increase stress levels and contribute to depression.

Please let your elected officials know how you feel about the Abingdon Business Park they have planned.

VERONICA CASSILLY

Darlington

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