What’s proposed for Elkhorn is not stream restoration | READER COMMENTARY

A fisherman paddles around Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. File. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun).

The proposed Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration project in Columbia will not restore the stream (”Columbia needs stream restoration project,” Feb. 17). We’ve seen time and time again, officials dub work with bulldozers and backhoes to clear forests and alter stream channels as restoration when at best it’s a temporary erosion fix. This project is another example.

Streamside forests are the lifeblood of our waterways: They provide habitat to animals, filter out pollutants and cool waterways. Yes, there are many eroded stream banks in our urban and suburban communities. However, the fix for erosion — and improving water quality — is outside the stream channels and upland where parking lots, roadways and rooftops generate the polluted runoff problem. By not addressing this source, we’re placing short term bandages that exacerbate the problem, cost millions of dollars, and clear precious streamside forests.


The Columbia Association’s proposed Lake Elkhorn project, currently under review by regulatory agencies, continues this madness. Columbia was developed prior to stormwater management regulations. At Lake Elkhorn, an in-line dam backs up the stream to slow water flow. This practice was common decades ago, but now it leaves the community searching for a solution to costly maintenance dredging from sediment buildup behind the dam. Unfortunately, the Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration project will do nothing to address the dam, the costly dredging, nor the polluted runoff from outside the stream channel that is flowing at unnatural speeds due to a failure to control stormwater upstream with green infrastructure or other solutions.

According to the permit application, this project would harm up to 20 acres of forested wetlands. That’s more forested wetland impacts than when the state constructed the Intercounty Connector highway. As if this was not bad enough, this project is a stream “mitigation bank,” meaning it would count as compensation for future environmental harm and open the door for five other miles of streams throughout Maryland to be altered.


We encourage the regulatory agencies, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to deny the permits for this project because it will cause more harm than good.

Rob Schnabel, Annapolis, and Sue Bannister, Columbia

The writers are, respectively, a Maryland restoration biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and a Phelps Luck resident and member of Protect Our Stream Long Reach.

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