3 Steffen Point Annapolis, MD 21401 410-263-2102


Weems Creek Cleanup Could Serve as Model for Others

By TIM HYLAND, Staff Writer

Muddy Weems Creek, polluted for years by stormwater runoff, could become a model for cleaning up all the creeks in Annapolis.

The creek, one of four city waterways troubled by stormwater or other urban pollution problems, will be the focus of a one-year, $50,000 study to determine its most pressing problems.

"Weems Creek is just a start, but it's a model," said Evan Belaga, president of the Weems Creek Conservancy and head of Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's environmental transition team.

Ms. Moyer will announce the study at tonight's Weems Creek Conservancy meeting at the Tawes State Office Building on Rowe Boulevard.

Weems Creek has long suffered from its precarious location. The watershed is home to more than 2,400 homes and businesses, but the creek's biggest problems could come from its biggest neighbors.

Major construction projects since the 1970s have pumped dirt and other sediments into the creek, filling in some areas and ruining habitat. The watershed includes Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis, Route 50, the county detention center, the new Anne Arundel Medical Center, scores of townhouse complexes and several new office buildings.

Some hope the new study will be the first step in the creek's recovery.

"The $50,000 is to look at the watershed as a whole, to determine where the problems are so that in the future we have a map of where we're going," said Corinne Reed-Miller, treasurer for the Weems Creek Conservancy.

The study will locate the most critical problems, and determine what needs to be done. It will be financed by the State Highway Administration and administered by the Department of Natural Resources.

This is not the first time the state has made efforts to clean up the creek.

In 1998, the county spent $428,000 and the state chipped in $160,000 to reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality in the creek. They also spent $100,000 each that year to stabilize 650 feet of channel and build a runoff basin from nearly 60 acres of commercial and industrial land.

A year earlier, the county and state spent $283,000 to shore up an unnamed tributary of the creek that had been eroding quickly.

When Mr. Belaga moved into his home on Steff-en Point in 1999, he saw a creek in crisis with no rescue in sight. A move to dredge the creek with hopes that would help failed, and area residents thought Weems was lost, he said.

"There was nothing going on," he said.

Since then, Mr. Belaga has led the charge to seek out grant money and restore the watershed.

Working with the county and the city, he has helped the creek pick up money for oyster restoration and the Weems Creek watershed study, along with a small watershed grant from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Meanwhile, the county is working on a wetland mitigation project near Porter Drive, and another grant application is being submitted to restore terrapin habitat in the creek.

Ms. Moyer's environmental transition team has recommended that the city follow up the Weems Creek effort with similar projects on College, Back and Spa creeks.

The team also recommended increased efforts to secure grant money, create defined watersheds for each creek and organize residents and businesses to help make improvements.

Mr. Belaga said the city, county and state governments are finally working together.

"With the new mayor involved, there's a whole new attitude at the city level," Mr. Belaga said. "The city was always the problem, but now they've leaped ahead."

thyland@capitalgazette.com

Published January 16, 2002, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright 2002 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Posted with permission