The State Highway Administration plans to begin rebuilding the natural stream banks of the Jabez Branch next summer in an effort to restore the only natural trout stream in Maryland's coastal plane.
But Robert A. Bachman, director of the Fish, Heritage and Wildlife Administration with the Department of Natural Resources, said more needs to be done if the stream is to be saved. He said surges of warm storm-water runoff continue to threaten the trout that spawn and live in the Jabez Branch, a shallow Severn River tributary running through Gambrills and Severn.
Yesterday, Robert Dvorak, head of the county Department of Plan ning and Code Enforcement, promised that the county would help save the Jabez.
"I don't have the answer today, but everyone recognizes that Jabez needs saving and time is of the essence," Mr. Dvorak said after meeting with members of the Severn River Commission and Mr. Bachman.
Biologists, highway engineers, environmentalists and community leaders have tried for five years to save the Jabez's trout by organizing community cleanups and installing better storm-water controls along Routes 3 and 32.
Although those efforts failed -- no trout were found in the stream after three years -- Mr. Bachman said he is optimistic about the stream's future. The Department of Natural Resources has stocked the stream for the last three years, and in December biologists found 24 healthy trout in the Jabez.
The State Highway Administration plans to spend $180,000 to fortify the Jabez's severely eroded banks using tree stumps and other natural materials. Although that will help halt the drainage of silt into the stream, Mr. Bachman said it will do little to keep warm water from washing off roads, roof tops and the cement walls used to stabilize some of the banks.
A 15-minute surge of warm storm water is enough to kill the trout unless they find refuge in the cool springs that feed the Jabez, Mr. Bachman said.
He said it is possible that only a few sites at the stream's head are to blame for the runoff. If those sites could be identified and remedied, the stream could be saved, he said.
"This is not that far gone," Mr. Bachman said. "We're not talking about controlling the flooding of the Mississippi. This is manageable."
Remedies might be as simple as constructing ditches to contain the storm water until it cools, he said.
Mr. Dvorak said the county would try to find the sources of the warm water, but he did not know when.
Lina Vlavianos, a member of the Severn River Commission, said she is pleased that the county will help. "It's an area that's just been sitting there and nothing has taken place," she said. "We would like to see some activity."