- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — A Potomac River pipeline in Frederick County could provide water to sustain growth in communities as far away as 30 miles.

Frederick County is building the pipeline and reached a tentative water-supply agreement Thursday with the city of Frederick, about 15 miles north of the intake point.

Officials in Mount Airy, about 15 miles east of Frederick, said last week that tapping into the pipeline is their lowest-cost option for accommodating a growing population.

The municipalities’ combined use of as much as 9.2 million gallons a day could account for slightly more than half of the 16 million gallons the pipeline would carry daily, on average.

The county’s permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment allows it to withdraw up to 26 million gallons daily from the river.

The Potomac shouldn’t be strained by increased demand for its water because “there is far more water in the river than is needed for water supply,” said Curtis Dalpra, a spokesman for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

The pipeline’s $85 million main stem, from the river to Frederick, could be completed this year, according to the city’s pending contract with the county.

Officials are still negotiating with the Maryland Department of the Environment on expansion plans for an existing water-treatment plant to purify the raw water.

An agreement in principle reached Thursday would give Frederick as much as 8 million gallons through 2015. The city could sign the deal this month, said Mayor William Jefferson Holtzinger.

Growth in the city of 57,000 has been stunted by tight water supplies. The Potomac pipeline will foster new opportunities for builders, which doesn’t please everyone.

“That clink you hear in the background is the developers’ champagne toast,” said Frederick County Commissioners President John L. Thompson Jr. He was the only commissioner or Frederick alderman voting against the agreement.

Water became an urgent issue in Mount Airy last month when the Town Council approved the annexation of a 152-acre farm where a developer plans to build 275 homes.

The council had been largely focused on the Patapsco River as a potential water source, but many residents view that narrow stretch of the river — surrounded by commercial development, railroad tracks and junkyards on Interstate 70 — as an unstable water source that poses a danger of contamination.

The town also has considered drawing directly from Gillis Falls, a nearby tributary of the Patapsco.

Given demand projections, the town of 8,500 residents will need a new water source by 2010.

Mount Airy officials would need to gain approval soon from Frederick County’s commissioners and the state if it is to complete a Potomac pipeline and pumping station by October 2009.

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