Carroll, city agree on expanding Liberty Reservoir water plant

THE BALTIMORE SUN

After years of negotiating, Carroll County and the city of Baltimore have reached an agreement that will allow the county to expand its water treatment plant on the city-owned Liberty Reservoir in Eldersburg.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge announced the agreement during her State of the County speech Thursday, and city public works officials confirmed it Friday.

"We are hoping for a successful signing for water allocation and land to lease for the expansion," Gouge said.

A few details remain, but those deal primarily with federal regulations and should not cause delays in the signing, said Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff.

"Absolutely, we are there," Powell said. "We have the final draft of the agreement in our office."

Douglas Myers, county director of public works, expects to have the draft ready for the commissioners' signatures Thursday.

"This will give us the extra gallons we need and the land to expand the plant," Myers said. "We are basically doubling our plant."

With the commissioners' endorsement, the agreement will go before the city's Board of Estimates for final certification. Construction could begin in late spring and take about 36 months, officials said. The county has about $14 million budgeted for the project, officials said.

The two jurisdictions will enter into a 15-year nominal lease for an additional 1.6 acres in the Liberty watershed. The land adjoins the 2 acres the Freedom Water Treatment Plant occupies on Oakland Road. The agreement also calls for doubling the daily allocation the plant can draw from the reservoir, water that the plant treats and then pumps to nearly 20,000 people in more than 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll.

An expanded plant will mean an increased water supply for South Carroll, the county's most populous and fastest-growing area and one that is beset with seasonal water shortages. During summer dry spells, the county has had to impose bans on outdoor water use for customers of its largest public water system.

The county has recently withheld residential building permits because of water shortages, and officials had expressed concerns that the situation might hamper needed economic development in South Carroll.

The agreement would allow the county to draw an average of 4.2 million gallons a day from Liberty, a 45 billion-gallon artificial lake in Carroll and Baltimore counties. The maximum capacity would be set at 180 million gallons - or 6 million gallons a day - over a 30-day period. The county would only need the maximum allocation in times of high demand, Myers said.

For many years, negotiations between the city and the previous board of commissioners were stymied when former Carroll officials refused to endorse water-protection measures.

One of the first official acts of the present board was the reaffirmation of the long-standing Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement, a pact among metropolitan users of the city water system that protects areas surrounding the reservoirs. The signing ended years of acrimony between Carroll County and neighboring jurisdictions over water protection.

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