MARYLAND

Reservoir Won't Be Tapped Soon

Montgomery County officials said yesterday that a release of water from Little Seneca Reservoir to aid the drought-depleted Potomac River is not imminent.

The County Council got a briefing on the drought from a number of environmental officials. But Senior Legislative Analyst Jennifer Hughes said that in the end, it appears water from that reservoir in Germantown won't be used any time soon.

Instead, officials want to wait for water from the Jennings Randolph Reservoir far upstream. That should take from five to seven days. There's also concern that tapping Little Seneca Reservoir could disturb fish and wildlife.

Montgomery residents already are being asked to limit water use voluntarily. But Hughes said that call really extends across borders. Residents of Fairfax County and the District also should watch their water use because, as Hughes put it, "we're in this together."

Coast Guard Faults Fishermen in Death

Human error and lack of training contributed substantially to the sinking of the Ocean City, Md., conch fishing vessel Predator and the death of its skipper at sea last December, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

A series of mistakes and miscues combined with panic and the elements to swamp the 33-foot vessel and take the life of its owner, Jonathan Mitchell, 28, who died of hypothermia Dec. 28 on a life raft awaiting rescue.

A shipmate, Micah Fooks, 27, of Pittsville, Md., survived the ordeal, which took place in the Atlantic Ocean seven miles off Assateague Island.

The Coast Guard said two of the boat's five bailing pumps weren't working. It said the men failed to check below decks to see why the other pumps kept coming on, failed to deploy the emergency rescue beacon, used the wrong method for deploying the life raft and broadcast their Mayday call on a channel that is not monitored by the Coast Guard.

$5 Million Goes to Fatten Race Purses

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) released $5 million in state funds yesterday to supplement purses at the state's horse racing tracks. The money is the first installment on the governor's pledge to spend $10 million this year as a way of boosting the horse industry's sagging fortunes.

Another $5 million will be paid before the end of the year, Glendening said, if Joseph A. De Francis and the other owners of Pimlico and Laurel tracks continue to improve their facilities. Glendening made improvements a condition for obtaining the state money. Last month, De Francis agreed to make $60 million of renovations and other improvements to the tracks.

Glendening, an opponent of slot machines and casinos, also made De Francis, once an aggressive promoter of slot machines at the tracks, drop his campaign to legalize slots in order to receive the $10 million in purse supplements.

VIRGINIA

Allen Takes Big Financial Lead Over Robb

Former Virginia governor George Allen (R) holds a better than 2 to 1 fund-raising lead over incumbent Charles S. Robb (D) in next year's U.S. Senate race.

Allen has raised $2.5 million, one of his senior advisers said, and Robb will report about $1 million raised in the six-month period ending June 30, according to a ranking Democrat.

"The outstanding fund-raising totals exceed all expectations," said Richard Cullen, an Allen adviser.

Countered Thomas Lehner, Robb's chief of staff: "We knew from the outset that he has more time to raise money. We expect to be outspent."

In his 1994 reelection effort, Robb raised just under $6 million, in contrast to more than $20 million for his chief opponent, Republican Oliver North.

Residents Fight Wood-Chipping Mills

Opponents of a wood-chipping operation in Dickenson County have urged Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) to impose a moratorium on new chip mills until a legislative panel completes an economic and environmental impact study.

About 20 residents from the Southwest Virginia county made the eight-hour bus trip to Richmond on Monday to present petitions with the signatures of 5,250 residents opposed to Pittston Coal Co.'s chip mill, which began operating last week. They were joined by representatives of several environmental and conservation organizations.

Protesters said the chip mill will encourage forest clear-cutting that causes erosion and water pollution. They also fear that the scenery will be scarred.

Chip mills turn hardwood and pine logs into wood chips that are shipped primarily to paper mills or exported to Asia.

Walt Crickmer, a Pittston vice president, said in a telephone interview that the chip mill provides a use for low-grade hardwood that is left after furniture-grade timber is harvested.

Unless the low-grade wood is removed, it becomes dominant and forms a canopy of trees that blocks sunlight and prevents regeneration of the more desirable timber, Crickmer said.

There are 21 chip mills in Virginia and 150 in the Southeast--112 of them built in the past decade, according to the Southeast Forest Project, a Washington-based conservation group.

THE DISTRICT

Cruise Companies Sued Over Vacations

The District's corporation counsel and seven states' attorneys general filed suit yesterday against two Fort Lauderdale, Fla., companies that allegedly told consumers they had won $1,600 vacations to Florida and the Caribbean--then charged $954 a couple and required attendance at time-share property sales pitches.

The District joined Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania in accusing the companies, National Travel Services and Ramada Plaza Resorts, of misrepresentation. Eight other states previously filed suit against the firms.

Lawyers for business owners Daniel Lambert and James H. Verillo denied the allegations. However, settlement talks with the states and the Federal Trade Commission are ongoing, said Gerald Greenspoon, a lawyer for the companies.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I'm busier than I've ever been, and I've been building fences since about 1969. Everyone who has a daughter needs a horse, and they have to have fences."

-- C.J. Phillips, who builds fences in Loudoun County, where many of the new residents brought by rapid development are buying horses. -- Page B1