- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

The owner of a pond in Crofton yesterday denied the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permission to poison the pond to kill the voracious snakehead fish breeding there, leaving state officials without a viable option to eradicate the predator.
Danny MacQuilliam, whose firm owns the four-acre pond and an adjoining strip mall in Anne Arundel County, "has said that he is unwilling to grant consent at this time," said DNR spokeswoman Heather Lynch.
Mr. MacQuilliam yesterday did not return calls and refused to talk about his decision.
"The next step is to wait," Miss Lynch said, adding that the DNR is "confident that the plans the [agencys] secretary has approved will go forward at some time soon."
DNR Secretary J. Charles Fox on Tuesday approved recommendations by the Maryland Scientific Snakehead Advisory Panel, which said the best way to ensure the destruction of the snakehead would be to treat the pond with herbicides and a fish-killing poison called Rotenone.
The drawback is that the poisoning will kill every organism in the water and could create a stench from dead fish.
The advisory panel deemed other possible solutions such as netting the fish, trapping it, electrifying the pond, introducing new predators, detonating explosives and draining the pond as "unlikely to be 100 percent successful."
"The discussions with [Mr. MacQuilliam] have been positive," Miss Lynch said. "He understands our position. He understands the time element. And we're confident that this will be resolved shortly."
Miss Lynch said she could not explain Mr. MacQuilliam's reasons for denying DNR permission to begin treatment of the pond.
"I'm not sure it's clear to our secretary what the reasons are," she said.
DNR spokeswoman Renee Samuels said the agency has not yet considered taking legal action to override Mr. MacQuilliam's decision.
"Right now, we have no reason to pursue that because we're still working with [him]," Miss Samuels said. "We're going to do everything we can to resolve this amicably."
"From every indication we've got, he's willing to work with us," she added.
Two smaller ponds next to Mr. MacQuilliam's are owned by Lancer Corp., whose attorney was seeking a statement of indemnification from the state of Maryland before giving the DNR permission to poison those bodies of water.
"They're waiting for a statement that the state will protect them from any damage that might result from this chemical operation," said John J. Klocko III, an attorney for Lancer Corp. "There can be environmental damages not to mention that while people conduct this operation, they might get injured."
Lancer Corp. is the general partner of a limited partnership that owns the land on which the Crofton Country Club sits.
Mr. Klocko, a Republican member of the Anne Arundel County Council, said state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. read a statement of indemnification to him over the phone yesterday afternoon.
"I thought the attorney general did a very good job extending significant protection to the landowners," he said.
Mr. Klocko said Lancer Corp. will allow the DNR to poison its two ponds after he receives a written statement from the attorney general today.
Maryland officials do not have the right to poison the ponds without the owners' permission or a court order, according to Mr. Klocko.
"I don't think they have any right to enter on private land," the lawyer said. "I know of no statute that permits them to enter on private property unless there is something illegal going on."
Miss Lynch said if permission is granted, DNR workers would begin poisoning the ponds as soon as possible after giving the community a 24-hour warning.
The snakehead fish, a native of northern China, has received national attention because of its reputation of being a fierce predator that grows to more than 3 feet long and is able to survive out of water for several days while crawling on its belly and fins.
The federal government has proposed a nationwide ban on importing the fish.
Snakehead fish were first discovered in the Crofton pond in May, and the advisory panel said hundreds of juvenile snakeheads could be growing in the pond.
Officials fear the snakeheads will eat all other fish in the pond, then crawl to the nearby Little Patuxent River, where their effect on the ecosystem would be significant and harder to contain.
State officials have said a resident admitted to dumping a male and a female snakehead in the pond two years ago after they had become too large to keep in a home aquarium.

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