Development threatens pristine Ten Mile Creek -- Gazette.Net



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Developers looking to move dirt on properties in the watershed of Ten Mile Creek have prompted county officials to consider taking the long or slightly less long road to protecting the creek.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) restarted discussions for protecting the creek, long regarded as environmentally valuable.

Three developers, Pulte Homes, Mattlyn Enterprises and Peterson Cos., have filed applications to have public water and sewer extended into their properties near the headwaters of the creek, said Alan Soukup, senior planner in the county Department of Environmental Protection.

Council President Roger Berliner said Ten Mile Creek will be the hot-button issue facing the council in the coming months. The council had received about 600 emails concerning the creek in a matter of days.

On Oct. 9, the council will discuss the semiannual report for the planning board, and with it consider options for protecting the creek, Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said.

The council has two possible paths for preserving the waterway: It can pursue amending the Clarksburg Master Plan, or it can impose conditions on properties in the area that seek public water or sewer.

Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, who represents the Clarksburg area, said any development proposed in the watershed should be required to come up with a very comprehensive and exhaustive water protection plan to ensure that the environment isn’t harmed.

“I think that there’s a way in which we can achieve, a way in which we can have this development that means jobs, that means affordable housing, which are extremely important here in Montgomery County, but also protects the environment,” Rice said. “And there is a balance that’s there; it just means that we have to require it, hold our developers responsible.”

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in a memo to Berliner that he is committed to ensuring Ten Mile Creek is treated “as the natural treasure that it is,” but also providing Clarksburg-area residents with the amenities and infrastructure that they need.

Because the council has not started on a master plan amendment despite recommendations for one in 2010, Leggett suggested that the council pursue protections for the creek through conditions on water and sewer.

Bob Hoyt, director of the Department of Environmental Protection, said using water and sewer conditions this way would be a first.

Conditions could include sediment, erosion and stormwater management or restrictions on impervious surfaces — surfaces like pavement, concrete or buildings that prevent water from infiltrating the soil below — said Steven Shofar, chief of the county’s watershed management division of DEP.

Development is allowed in the watershed by the Clarksburg Master Plan, but at densities that would require public water and sewer, Soukup said.

As many as 900 residential units could spring up west of Md. 121 under the master plan.

In the last decade, development in the watershed has degraded Ten Mile Creek’s quality from mostly excellent among the watershed to mostly good, Shofar said.

Development threatens to degrade Ten Mile Creek’s water quality if protections are not put in place soon, environmental advocates said.

Among those advocated, the Audubon Naturalist Society is asking the council to pursue a master plan amendment that would allow for protection of the creek and continued development in Clarksburg Town Center where amenities have not kept pace with the plan, said Diane Cameron, conservation program director for the Audubon Naturalist Society.

Ten Mile Creek is one of the last pristine waterways in the county where brown trout naturally live, Cameron said.

Shofar said only nine of the county’s approximately 200 watersheds have trout, an indication of high water quality. However, baby trout have not been found in the Ten Mile Creek watershed, he said.

kalexander@gazette.net