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Stream group maps Patuxent tributaries 7-county study of river planned


Maryland Save our Streams is mapping stream banks, fish barriers and other potential problems along four Patuxent River tributaries in Anne Arundel as part of a seven-county study of the waterway.

County officials are to pay the Glen Burnie-based agency $22,500 from a state Department of Natural Resources grant for the surveys of Towsers Branch, Dorsey Run, Davidsonville Branch and Kings Branch.

County planners need the data to decide where to put storm water controls and evaluate the effect of land-use and zoning practices on water quality, said Meo Curtis, of the county Office of Planning and Zoning.

Already, volunteers have scouted three of the streams, said Jonathan Pearson, a coordinator for SOS. A two-mile section of Dorsey Run will be explored within the next two weeks, he said.

The organization is to provide a report of its surveys to the state Department of Natural Resources by January. The money for the study was funneled to the county through DNR's Freshwater Fisheries Division for a study of stream habitats, Ms. Curtis said.

She said county planners are combining the habitat study with the analysis of different land use practices in the areas around the four tributaries.

The land near Towsers Branch, a tributary of the Little Patuxent, RTC is intensely developed while that around

Kings Branch remains largely agricultural. Davidsonville Branch and Dorsey Run flow through undeveloped land between Howard and Anne Arundel counties where large-lot residential and commercial developments are planned.

Armed with the survey of conditions along those streams, Ms Curtis said the county "can go back in after they're developed and see what the effects are."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the stat $3.5 million to evaluate land use practices along the Patuxent River in hopes that it will be a national model for controlling non-point source pollution.

Non-point source pollution includes sediments, fertilizers and other toxins carried into waterways from parking lots, roof tops, farms and construction sites.

Environmentalists see the Patuxent watershed -- which covers 900 square miles -- as a model for the Chesapeake Bay. The waterways share common problems. And because the river is smaller and flows entirely within Maryland, scientists can more easily monitor the effectiveness of clean up efforts.

Anne Arundel is among seven counties in the watershed participating in the study. Each county is to receive $30,000 this fiscal year to evaluate local effects of zoning, reforestation requirements and other land-use practices on specific tributaries.

The county plans to use the information to decide where to put additional storm water controls along Towsers Branch and the use the money from the Patuxent Demonstration Project to pay for the controls, Ms. Curtis said.

The seven-square-mile watershed, which runs between Odenton and Crofton, was the subject of an intense storm water project in the 1980s. The county spent $410,000 then installing controls in a 30-year-old suburban neighborhood around Arundel Middle School.

"We saw improvements in water quality [after controls were installed in 1989], but it was very expensive," Ms. Curtis said.

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