As a member of the Harford County Environmental Advisory Board, I was surprised and disappointed that the County Council, at the request of the County Executive, recently passed a Bill which changed the definition of an “intermittent stream.”
This vote was made without input from our committee or even an opportunity to review the bill. This seems contrary to the purpose of an advisory board. This legislation is a potential economic and environmental disaster for our county.
Harford County previously defined “intermittent stream” in accordance with the EPA and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The definition being: “a stream where portions flow continuously only at certain times of the year, for example when it receives water from a spring, ground-water source or from a surface source, such as rain.”
The county has adopted the definition stated by the Army Corps of Engineers, which defines an “intermittent stream” as: “a stream where portions flow continuously only at certain times of the year, when it receives water from a spring or ground-water source.” This definition excludes streams created by surface sources know as ephemeral streams whose flow depends on rainfall.
You may recall the picture of the car washed into the woods on the front page of The Aegis last month. The owner had to be rescued before the stream, formed suddenly by torrential rains, swept through her home. The historic flooding claimed the lives of three people and left others homeless. One would think we would be increasing buffers around all streams, intermittent and otherwise, to prevent disasters like the one we experienced on August 31st.
We would hope the Council would be working to protect the life and property of citizens. Instead, they voted to remove the 75-foot buffer which protected ephemeral streams from development. The only “No” votes cast were from Councilmen Perone and Shrodes. Mr. Shrodes represents the residents in Darlington whose home was destroyed by an ephemeral stream.
This bill raises many legal and ethical questions. What was the reason for changing the definition of intermittent stream and who will bear the responsibility when new homes built in stream beds are flooded?
Will the developer be held liable or will Harford County for allowing the development? Will the financial and emotional burden be left on homeless residents? Are Harford County residents to feel safer now that engineers from the Army Corps will be defining what determines a stream in our county rather than local planners?