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Advisory group agrees: No rush on water sales

July 18, 2006

When the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich first proposed the possible sale of water from state parks and other state-owned land, we counseled caution.

Specifically, we wanted to know what effect withdrawing water from streams and/or wells would have on the parks themselves - specifically wildlife and vegetation.

We also expressed concern that the practice might also reduce flow to the Potomac River and other primary water sources.

It seems that some of the experts agree with the idea that, in this case, caution is indicated.

On Friday, Maryland's State Water Quality Advisory Committee met with officials of the Department of Natural Resources to get input prior to writing a final draft of the policy.

Members of the advisory group proposed a couple of ideas, including:

That such water sales should barred, unless there is a crisis or a public-health emergency.

That such sales should be prohibited because they would have the effect of drawing development to areas near the parks.

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In the Ehrlich administration's defense, it did not propose the sales on its own, but reacted after receiving a dozen or so requests from towns and businesses seeking water.

One of those came from Boonsboro, which is seeking rights to groundwater in South Mountain State Park. Middletown, Md., has asked about water in Gambrill State Park.

Complicating matters, according to The (Baltimore) Sun, is the fact that in 2001, the Wisp ski resort in Garrett County was given the OK to draw 189 million gallons per year from state-owned Deep Creek Lake for snow-making purposes.

The Sun reports that the resort pays nothing for the water, but does pay a $3,000 annual fee for running the pipeline across state lands.

Resort officials argue that the lake is recharged when the snow melts, but that still seems mighty cheap for water many Marylanders must pay for.

As we said previously, taxpayers have already paid once to buy and maintain the state's park lands. Until we're sure that more good than bad would result from selling the water, we favor a longer study of the idea.

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