- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

A.S. Csaky's love for trees is so intense it sent him to the hospital, but his efforts to save historic trees from the drought received a big boost yesterday.
Mr. Csaky and his wife, Spriggy, have spent several months trying to save 57 historical trees on their half-acre property in Annapolis from the ravages of the summer dry spell.
Mr. Csaky has worked for weeks to drill carefully measured holes in 1-inch thick firehoses, donated by a local firehouse for a giant sprinkler system.
Hauling and working on the hoses, which are 200 feet long and weigh 50 pounds when dry, took such a toll on Mr. and Mrs. Csaky's hands that they had to go to the hospital for cortisone shots.
"We are battling this drought single-handedly, my wife and I," he said. "It's been a physical-endurance test."
The peninsula of Virginia, parts of eastern Maryland and Delaware, and greater Washington are in the middle of a severe drought. The lack of rainfall is causing some trees to drop their leaves more than a month early, setting record lows for groundwater levels and causing varying levels of water restrictions across the region.
Yesterday, an 18-wheel tanker truck filled with 6,000 gallons of water from S.J. Johnson Pool Water Delivery Service rolled onto Mr. Csaky's property at about 11 a.m. The water was sprayed through sprinklers and high into the air, watering the ground and the diverse collection of tulip poplars, cedars, dogwoods, cypresses and sassafras trees.
It was the second time in the past month that Mr. Csaky has arranged for the truck to come to the rescue of his trees, which date to the Revolutionary War. The tallest is about 100 feet.
"I am trying to save living witnesses to history," Mr. Csaky said.
The trees are a few hundred yards from Thomas Point, a cliff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay where artillery was placed to hold the British fleet at bay during the Revolutionary War, Mr. Csaky said.
The southeastern portion of the Potomac River basin is experiencing a level D-4 drought. The classification, also known as "exceptional," is the highest level assigned by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The eastern portion of the basin shows severe and extreme drought levels, and the central portion is at the first drought stage.
U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Wendy McPherson said groundwater levels are at an all-time low.
"In the 40 years the U.S. Geological Survey has been measuring wells, we've never seen this many wells breaking records at the same time," she said.
"We're really exceeding the records."
Among other things, such severe drought takes a cumulative toll on trees.
"If it continues another year and then another year, you're really going to see a lot of deaths to large trees," said Brendan Lynch, a local irrigation consultant and president of Lynch Associates Ltd.
He applauded Mr. Csaky's efforts.
"He's a good man with the best of intentions," said Mr. Lynch, who shares Mr. Csaky's concern for the trees.
"He's right on about the stress to the trees. When you drive around, the trees are already dropping their leaves, which is a good 45 days early," Mr. Lynch said. "I haven't seen anything like this in my life except for in the early '80s and mid-'60s."
Mike Koterba, a U.S.Geological Survey hydrologist who has worked in forest hydrology, said the fate of trees depends mainly on their age.
"If the tree is 10 to 15 years old, it has established a deep enough root system," he said. "But unless the root system is well-developed, it's pretty hard to survive under these conditions."
Oaks and maples are most resistant to drought, while tulip poplars and dogwoods are the most sensitive to it, Mr. Koterba said.
He said it's typically hard to tell until spring, when living trees blossom new leaves, whether a tree has died.

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