The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) held a public hearing to share plans on a recent permit application by Garrett County to withdraw water from two wells in the Hoyes Run area. Over 50 attendees gathered at Garrett College Auditorium to learn more about the proposed water withdraw. Water withdraw is expected between 302,000 gallons per day and up to 511,000 gallons during maximum use.
John Grace, Chief of Source Protection and Appropriation Division of the Water Management Administration led the hearing. An extensive presentation from Groundwater Geologist, Jim Casselberry outlined the studies and test wells that were drilled to support the permit application. He noted that his firm, Casselberry & Associates has been looking at this area for 10 years. Two wells identified in the permit are #601 and #683 that both access the Greenbrier aquifer that supplies Hoyes Run stream and water wells for homes in the area.
The purpose for the appropriation request is to supplement the McHenry water system to supply future development at Marsh Mountain and surrounding areas. The anticipated buildout over time could include over 700 new water taps. The identified aquifer is replenished only through surface water from rainfall and melting snow. Casselberry explained that testing was done in the middle of the cycle to avoid the extreme wet and dry seasons.
You can read more about the analysis and view the data charts HERE.
Following the presentation several questions were answered before official testimony was heard. James “Smokey” Stanton, President of the Youghiogheny River Watershed Association opposed the permit. The organization launched an online petition that gathered over 400 signatures supporting their objection to drawing water out of the Hoyes Run watershed. A core issue Stanton pointed out was that over $300,000 had already been invested in Hoyes Run to restore the trout stream and address runoff and erosion issues. The water withdraw could jeopardize the health of the stream and its aquatic life.
Strong opposition was presented by Trout Unlimited (TU) that had spokespersons from the local, State, and Mid-Atlantic Council presenting their collective interest in protecting Hoyes Run as a natural and sustainable habitat for three varieties of trout. Besides the Brook and Brown Trout, Hoyes Run is the only naturally occurring population of Rainbow Trout in the State.
TU Ex Officio, Jim Gracie of Brightwater, Inc. noted that drawing down the water in the stream could place the trout populations at great risk since they are a cold water fish that flourish in 68 degree temperatures. Reducing the water volumes could increase water temperatures at a faster rate, placing trout at great risk and pose long-term negative environmental impacts. Gracie also requested a 90 day comment period to allow additional time to conduct an impact study on the trout population. He noted that Trout Unlimited was prepared to impose an injunction if MDE didn’t comply with extending the submission deadline.
Garrett County Board of Realtors rep Paul Durham raised concerns over the “circuit breaker” provision in the permit (suspending water withdrawals at various times) and how that would affect the sale of new lots. At issue was a provision in the proposal explained by Casselberry that withdraws would be suspended if stream flows changed, leaving new property owners vulnerable to loss of water supply. He alerted MDE to the potential harm to property values should compromised water availability be known. When selling property, it’s customary to inform a potential buyer of any shortcomings or issues they may face as the new home owner. Public water supplyshortages could interfere with purchases making it to closing.
Engage Mountain Maryland, Legislative Chair, Eric Robison shared information from the Garrett County Comprehensive Plan regarding water volumes estimated for the McHenry water system. In 2007 it was estimated the average water requirement was 215,000 gallons, and today Hudnall estimated 400,000 gallons are required daily. The projection when the earlier plan was drafted estimated a 1-million-gallon daily requirement by 2030 which would illustrate a shortage even with the new permit.
Robison’s recommendation was to complete the 2008 Wolman Report that studied and identified water resources in Maryland. Funding was pulled before the study reached Western Maryland. “Because it’s folded and irregular,” Robison explains when referring to Western Maryland’s geology, "there is no consistency and we don’t have a clear understanding of how we can utilize those water resources with that geology, and continue to develop in our community. So, there’s a need for that [The Wolman Report ] to be completed,”
Several attendees asked for more study to be conducted to find alternate water sources for McHenry pointing out the Hoyes Run aquifer is simply a short-term solution to a long-term problem Garrett County should be addressing.
For more information about the permit application, CLICK HERE.
You can submit comments to MDE by regular mail or via email. Reference the permit application #GA2015G001/01 in your comments and include your name and address.