The Montgomery County Council this week gave the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission the go-ahead to design a lake in the upcounty town of Boyds that would provide water to the county during periods of drought.

The sanitary commission will spend the next nine months studying ways to design the lake, which would be used for recreation and for emergency water supplies when the Potomac River runs low.

The lake, now estimated to cost $17 million, would still have to be approved as a capital improvements budget item by the council.

"I can't imagine a less expensive solution for our water supply problems," said Montgomery Councilman John Menke, a member of the Bi-County (Montgomery and Prince George's) Water Supply Task Force, wich recommended the lake several months ago. "I would expect the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission would fund it as one of their commission projects. If not, I would hope that Montgomery would fund it."

Before the WSSC either designs the lake or funds it, the commission must have the approval of Prince George's County, which is also served by the sanitary commission.

Possible recreation activities on the 452-acre, 3-billion gallon lake include nongas-powered boating, swimming, fishing, picnicking and camping, according to Edward Graham, the director of the office of Environmental Planning for Montgomery.

The lake would be created by building a dam on the Little Seneca Creek northeast of Boyds.

Julius Cinque, the president of the Boyds Civic Association, said residents had "mixed feelings" about the lake. "A lot will depend on how the lake is used recreationally," Cinque said. "A lot of people envisioned much more passive recreational activities than are now being talked about." The Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission would run the recreational activities.

Cinque said that the Boyds community also was worried because the lake would destroy 24 houses, some of them of historic interest.

Historic sites along Ten Mile Creek Road, which runs parallel to Ten Mile Creek, will be be covered by the lake if it is created, according to local historian and Boyds resident Peg Coleman.

"On that road are two old tobacco plantations, a former slave cabin and an old boarding house and country resort where a Confederate army general once stayed, according to legend," said Coleman.