THE REGION

Drought Improves Chesapeake Water

The two-year drought has improved water quality and clarity in the Chesapeake Bay by reducing muddy runoff from city streets, lawns and development sites, studies show.

Virginia's secretary of natural resources, W. Tayloe Murphy Jr., said the environmental benefits of the drought illustrate how important controlling land-based pollution is for the health of the bay.

The clear water has allowed sea grasses to flourish. Scientists report that the grasses, which breathe oxygen into the bay and provide shelter for fish and blue crabs, increased by 16,000 acres last year, the biggest growth spurt since 1978, when such trends first were measured.

But the drought also has had a downside. Less rain has meant an increase in salinity. And this has increased the incidence of two diseases, MSX and Dermo, that kill oysters.

THE DISTRICT

Hearing on Spending Plan Today

The D.C. Council is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning on a proposal requiring directors of city agencies to submit periodic spending plans and stick to them -- or face penalties including possible termination.

The bill, introduced by council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), is targeted at what he called the "reckless" overspending by some government agencies in recent years. With city revenue stagnant, officials are looking to curb the rapid increase of expenditures.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the council chambers in the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

School Enrollment Hearing Today

The District Board of Education will hold a hearing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today to discuss changing the way parents enroll their children in schools outside their neighborhood.

The hearing will be held in the school board's meeting room at 825 North Capitol St. NE on the fifth floor.

The current policy requires parents to wait in line to enroll their children at a school outside their attendance zone. At some schools -- especially the Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Northwest -- parents in recent years have spent days outside waiting in line, prompting widespread complaints to the school board.

MARYLAND

Apples Ahead for Antietam

The landmarks at Antietam National Battlefield already include one agricultural feature, the cornfield. Soon there will be another: the apple orchard.

Rangers and volunteers plan to plant 350 apple trees this fall to help restore the Piper farm, one of the homesteads on the property, to the way it looked on the eve of the Civil War's bloodiest one-day battle.

A nursery in Michigan is supplying eight apple varieties -- Baldwin, English Russet, Fornwalder, Gilpin, Jefferis, Maidenblush, McLellan and Northern Spy -- for the project, said Joe Calzarette, Antietam's natural resources manager.

He said the National Park Service needs volunteers to help plant and tend the trees on seven acres of the 3,255-acre park.

The original, 17-acre Piper orchard was occupied by Confederate troops Sept. 17, 1862, when Union and Confederate forces clashed along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg in a battle that left more than 23,000 dead, wounded or missing.

Schaefer Tower to Reopen Today

A 28-story government building in Baltimore is scheduled to reopen today after a water main break shut it down Friday.

Dave Humphrey, a Department of General Services spokesman, said the reopening means 1,600 state employees should be heading back to work.

He said the William Donald Schaefer Tower was closed after about 325,000 gallons of water flooded the parking garage. The water was pumped out, and contractors inspected equipment over the weekend.

Humphrey said the building's tenants include the Maryland Transit Administration, the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Public Defender.

VIRGINIA

Va. Tech's Board Increases Tuition

Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors increased tuition yesterday for the second time in less than a year, adding $400 to students' costs for spring semester.

University officials said the increase was the only way to avoid cutting more jobs and programs after Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) trimmed state spending to help offset Virginia's $3.8 billion budget shortfall. Tech officials said the school has lost $61.5 million in state funding in less than a year, and it expects to lose $11 million next year.

"Further deep cuts would have made classes unbearably large, forced the elimination of many degree programs, and made course availability aggravating for students," Tech President Charles W. Steger said in a statement.

With the increase, full-time undergraduates from Virginia will pay $1,922 per semester for tuition, out-of-state students will pay $6,730, in-state graduate students will be charged $2,769.50 and out-of-state graduate students will pay $4,387.

Turkeys Should Be Plentiful This Year

Despite an avian flu epidemic that cost the lives of 4.7 million chickens and turkeys in the Shenandoah Valley and took a $130 million toll on the state's poultry industry this year, the Virginia Poultry Federation said there will be no shortage of turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Federation President Hobey Bauhan said that there's an ample supply of turkeys and that prices should be slightly lower than they were a year ago.

Virginia produced about 25 million turkeys last year -- nearly half the birds that were eaten in the United States for Thanksgiving, according to Bauhan.

"They are so proud of being a low-tax state. Then we slobs in the trenches have to raise taxes. We're tired of the accountability being put on our doorstep and the General Assembly getting away scot-free."

-- Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D), commenting on how state lawmakers are avoiding tax increases by forcing more financial burdens on local governments. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Craig Timberg and Justin Blum and the Associated Press.