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MDE considers proposal by local dairy farmer to draw water from Antietam Creek for crops

August 23, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Gregory Mallet-Prevost, center, owns property along Antietam Creek and was in attendance Thursday afternoon at the hearing with Maryland Department of Environment's Water Management Administration representitives regarding an application from a local farmer to draw water from Antietam Creek.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO, Md. — About 40 people attended a hearing Thursday afternoon about a farmer’s proposal to draw up to a little more than 1 million gallons of water per day from Antietam Creek, and the discussion at times focused on overall concerns about management of the stream besides the farmer’s request.

The Maryland Department of Environment’s Water Management Administration is considering allowing dairy farmer Dean Lehman to draw an annual average of 123,000 gallons of water per day from the creek and a maximum daily withdrawal of 1,152,000 gallons from the stream.

The proposed project would be at 6951 University Road near Keedysville.

Josh Robins of River City Farm and Pet, who represented Lehman at the hearing at the Eugene C. Smith Community Center, said Lehman wants to be able to draw water from Antietam Creek for crops. Robins explained how prices for feed for livestock such as corn and soybeans have skyrocketed, and Lehman wants the water to raise his own crops.

“The whole thing has changed for the dairy man. We can no longer farm the way we did,” Robins said.

If the water level drops to a certain point on the creek, Lehman could be required to stop pumping water, said John Grace, division chief for the source protection and appropriation division within MDE.

Grace said MDE will accept public comments on the proposal until Sept. 21. Grace said he did not know when his agency will make a decision on Lehman’s request.

Antietam Creek is a popular stream for recreational activities such as canoeing, and residents in attendance expressed wide-ranging concerns about drawing water from the stream.

Gregory Mallet-Prevost, who lives along Antietam Creek near Devil’s Backbone Park, asked Grace if the state has a policy for the maximum amount of water that can be taken out of the creek.

“If (we) don’t have that number, we’re going to have a real problem,” Mallet-Prevost said.

Grace said the state has no number like that. Requests to pump water from the creek are considered on a permit-by-permit basis, and the different requests can deal with various issues, Grace said.

Grace said there currently are 21 permits in effect to allow water to be drawn from the creek for various purposes.

Among people speaking was Charles Bailey, a Hagerstown attorney who was representing River and Trail Outfitters, which specializes in tubing, kayak and rafting trips, and offers rides on Antietam Creek.

Bailey asked Grace if MDE considered economic impacts on businesses such as River and Trail Outfitters when a request such as Lehman’s is made.

Grace said his agency does not make such considerations.

Brent Walls, Upper Potomac River manager for Potomac Riverkeeper, asked Grace if restrictions on Lehman’s permit would change if more permits to draw water out of the creek are approved.

Grace said Lehman’s restrictions would not change.

“That sounds counterintuitive,” Walls said.

Walls asked if the state looks at water quality issues that might arise on the creek when such requests are made. Walls used an example of algae developing on the stream during low water levels.

Grace said his agency does not have a “tool” that would examine water quality issues.

Grace’s comment drew laughs from the crowd.

“So they don’t care,” one man said.

Bailey asked Grace if the state considers alternatives to drawing water out of a creek, like drilling wells instead.

Grace said wells sometimes are considered as an alternative.

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Public comments

Comments on Dean Lehman’s request to draw water from Antietam Creek can be submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment until Sept. 21.

Comments can be sent to John Grace, Water Supply Program, 1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230.

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