Balto. Co. re­fuses to help pay for midge spray­ing

Gover­nor’s pro­posal called un­sci­en­tific, too lim­ited

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/pwoodreporter

Bal­ti­more County will not kick in money for a midge-erad­i­ca­tion plan pro­posed by Gov. Larry Ho­gan.

The Repub­li­can gover­nor pub­licly asked Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, a Demo­crat, on Oct. 5 to con­trib­ute $650,000 to spray pes­ti­cides to com­bat midges on Back River in eastern Bal­ti­more County.

The gover­nor had pre­vi­ously sent the re­quest to Kamenetz in writ­ing and said the state would pay the same amount.

Two days later, the county’s direc­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity, Vin­cent J. Gar­dina, wrote that the county would not help pay for the pro­gram.

The state’s pro­posal lacked a sci­en­tific jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the plan and would treat only a frac­tion of the Back River, Gar­dina wrote. Ac­cord­ing to Gar­dina, spend­ing $1.3 mil­lion as Ho­gan pro­posed would only be enough to treat between 48 and 96 acres.

“At best, such a pro­posal does not seem to of­fer a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion, and does not con­sti­tute an ef­fec­tive in­vest­ment of tax dol­lars,” Gar­dina wrote.

Midges don’t bite and aren’t con­sid­ered a health threat, but their swarms are a nui­sance for boaters and oth­ers who use the river. The state Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources has been study­ing Back River’s midge pop­u­la­tion since 2014.

The long-term so­lu­tion to erad­i­cate midges is to re­duce the nu­tri­ents such as ni­tro­gen that fuel growth of phy­to­plank­ton in the river and at­tract the tiny bugs, Gar­dina wrote. Con­tin­u­ing to im­prove the city’s Back River Waste­water Treat­ment Plant is a key part of that ef­fort, he wrote.

The state should “pro­vide a long-term strat­egy for re­duc­ing the midge lar­vae pop­u­la­tion and not de­fer to a short-term in­ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion as pro­posed by the Gover­nor,” Gar­dina wrote. “While we agree that midges are a nui­sance, it is nec­es­sary to have sci­en­tific facts to sup­port such an ex­pen­di­ture.”

Dou­glass Mayer, a spokesman for Ho­gan, said the gover­nor’s plan pro­vides in­terim re­lief while work­ing on a long-term so­lu­tion. He noted the Back River sewage plant is be­ing up­graded and will have top nu­tri­ent-re­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy by 2018.

“It is very dis­ap­point­ing that Bal­ti­more County doesn’t re­ally seem to be in­ter­ested in join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to ad­dress this pub­lic nui­sance,” Mayer said.

The state is plan­ning a “midge sum­mit” in Es­sex this month to dis­cuss the is­sue.

Ear­lier this year, state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling tried un­suc­cess­fully to pass leg­is­la­tion that would have re­quired the state to help mari­nas in Bal­ti­more County pay for midge erad­i­ca­tion.

On Thurs­day, Salling said he’s frus­trated — but not sur­prised — that Kamenetz is de­clin­ing to join with Ho­gan to pay for the spray­ing.

“For some rea­son, he just doesn’t want to co­op­er­ate with us. ... It shows me he doesn’t care about the peo­ple, he doesn’t care about the busi­nesses,” said Salling, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents eastern Bal­ti­more County.

The midge is­sue is by no means the first dis­agree­ment between Ho­gan and the Kamenetz ad­min­is­tra­tion. The two have tan­gled on is­sues in­clud­ing trans­porta­tion projects, the planned re­de­vel­op­ment of a county govern­ment cen­ter into a shop­ping cen­ter and the county’s pace of in­stalling air con­di­tion­ing in schools.

Kamenetz is con­sid­er­ing a run against Ho­gan in the 2018 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion.

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