Retiree ready to wade into water dispute; Carroll County teacher offers to help resolve conflict over reservoir


After 30 years opining on local politics to both students and the media, Donald R. Jansiewicz does not plan to retire into silence.

The Carroll Community College professor of political science may be leaving the classroom, but he is not leaving public debate. The Catonsville resident has volunteered to work with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, offering to help the board resolve water resource problems.

"I really felt like I wanted to do something in the area of public service," said Jansiewicz, 56. "I could make a difference putting my analysis skills to work."

Paul Farragut, executive director of the council, said he looks forward to working "with a senior with so much experience. It is terrific that somebody with his expertise would volunteer with us."

Jansiewicz hopes to succeed where officials and administrators have failed, by bringing about the ratification of a long-standing agreement to protect Liberty Reservoir and its watershed.

While teaching at the county's two-year college, Jansiewicz said, he has heard often heated debate on issues relating to the reservoir, a 45 billion-gallon lake at Carroll's southern border. The reservoir, which is owned by Baltimore City, supplies 1.8 million people in the metropolitan area.

"The big challenge is to keep all jurisdictions on board and preserving water quality," said Jansiewicz. "I really want to work toward reapproval of a basic agreement to protect the reservoir and the surrounding watershed. This reservoir is extremely important to 1.8 million people."

An even greater challenge is getting Carroll officials to reaffirm the county's commitment to watershed protection by signing off on an update to a long-standing pact between the city and the metropolitan counties.

The Watershed Protection Agreement, written more than 20 years ago, safeguards the lake and the 160-square-mile surrounding area from uncontrolled development. Nearly all of that land is in Carroll. The county commissioners have refused to reaffirm the pact, saying that the document infringes on local planning authority and stymies economic development. But the metropolitan council says it created the agreement to protect the reservoir.

"Land use impacts the surface quality of the water," said Jack Anderson, manager of special projects for the council.

The agreement among the city, Carroll and Baltimore counties and several state agencies dates to 1979. The last official signing, which approved language stressing protection of water feeding the reservoir, occurred 10 years ago. A reaffirmation set for 1996 failed to go ahead when Carroll officials refused to participate.

To serve South Carroll, the county's most populous area with more than 28,000 residents, officials say the water treatment plant must be expanded and that the daily water allocation must be increased by 2 million gallons. The city allows the county to draw 3 million gallons a day from the reservoir, which is barely enough to meet the demands of growing South Carroll.

The state, in keeping with Smart Growth legislation, is directing growth to areas where development exists, such as South Carroll. Baltimore City wants to limit development in the 9,200 acres that make up the watershed.

"We are in a real Catch-22," said Robert A. "Max" Bair, the county's executive assistant. "Our community planning areas are designated as Smart Growth, but five of them are in the watershed area."

Jansiewicz said he sees the stumbling blocks as language problems.

"Fundamentally, what the county commissioners want is freedom to develop," said Jansiewicz. "But the pressure is on. This reservoir affects too many people for somebody to say, 'Just trust me.' "

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