A study intended to identify solutions to traffic problems in the Huntingtown area of Calvert County probably will not be completed until the end of the year, according to a county official.

A major part of the study concerns the traffic effects of opening Huntingtown High School in August.

"We're not going to complete the study probably till the end of the calendar year so we can see the impact of the school on the traffic corridor," said Sherrod Sturrock, the county's capital projects coordinator.

The decision was made at a recent meeting of county and state officials with Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, a Baltimore engineering firm hired to do the traffic study, Sturrock said.

The $87,895 study was commissioned last month amid mounting concerns over plans to let vehicles exit directly from the new high school onto Route 2/4. The study also will analyze traffic on Cox Road, where the county eventually may place an entrance for the new school.

In the meantime, school officials are looking at ways to manage the traffic flow.

"They're looking at timing releases so maybe students who drive are not let out at the same time as those who ride buses," Sturrock said. The consultants also will look at ways to address traffic concerns raised by the nearby Walnut Creek neighborhood.

Airport Meeting

St. Mary's County residents will have a chance Monday to hear about the environmental assessment of proposed improvements at Captain Walter Francis Duke Regional Airport.

The informational meeting is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. in the terminal building at 44200 Airport Rd. in California. It is being presented by the county commissioners, the county Public Works and Transportation Department and the Airport Advisory Committee.

The proposed changes would include general improvements and possibly extending the runway to accommodate larger planes and corporate jets. After an information session on the environmental assessment, the public will be allowed to comment on the projects. Exhibits on the various projects will be on display, and airport staff members and consultants will be available to answer questions.

A copy of the draft environmental assessment is available in each of the county's three public libraries. Accommodations for persons with disabilities or linguistic barriers should be requested by contacting the St. Mary's County Public Information Office at 301-475-4200, Ext. 1340.

Program Approved

The College of Notre Dame of Maryland announced Monday that it has received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission for a doctoral program in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations. This degree marks the first doctoral program offered by the College of Notre Dame and is the first of its kind in Maryland.

The program will be offered beginning next fall at the college's North Charles Street campus in Baltimore and at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.

Designed to help teachers provide instructional leadership for students from linguistic or cultural minorities, the program will focus on the role of language and culture in the learning process.

The College of Notre Dame said the program is intended to address the changing nature of Maryland's civic and school populations. According to census data, foreign immigration accounted for 44 percent of new Maryland residents from 1990-2000. In addition, documents from the Maryland Department of Planning indicate that the number of Maryland residents who speak English "less than very well" rose by nearly 100,000 from 1990 to 2000.

In addition to master's students from the college, the program is expected to attract teachers and other education professionals involved in curriculum and staff development; teachers, resource teachers and supervisors working with students who are part of large immigrant populations; mentors, grade-level and department chairs; and aspiring community college professors.

Approximately 20 students, most studying part time, will be accepted each year for the 60-credit program. The first graduates are expected to receive doctoral degrees in 2009.

Twelve faculty members at the College of Notre Dame will teach in the doctoral program; four additional faculty members will be added. For information about the doctoral program, call 410-532-5349 or visit www.ndm.edu.

Snakehead Alert

Last week's catch of a northern snakehead fish in the Potomac River in Charles County, along with two others caught in Virginia tributaries of the river, has escalated concerns about damage the aggressive predator could do to the river fishery.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials have posted signs urging anglers to kill any snakeheads they catch.

This week, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) met to discuss developments with officials from the DNR and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

"This fish poses a real risk to the region's ecosystem. The snakehead is a very fierce predator and feeds on almost anything," Hoyer said. "If snakeheads become established, this behavior could drastically modify our native species, disrupting the ecological balance and damaging our local economy by displacing native fish such as the large mouth bass."

The northern snakehead can be up to 40 inches long and up to 15 pounds, has a long dorsal fin and a small head with a large mouth and big teeth. DNR officials have asked anglers who catch the fish to report it by calling 877-620-8DNR.

Bay Grasses Decline

Persistent, heavy precipitation throughout the spring and summer 2003 growing season contributed to an unprecedented 30 percent decline in the abundance of Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) last year, according to an annual survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Near-record precipitation washed large amounts of nutrients and sediment from the land into the bay, and when combined with cloudy, rain-filled days, hindered the growth of the bay's underwater grasses, according to a statement issued by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Data from the annual aerial survey of SAV in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers estimate a total of 64,709 acres in 2003, significantly lower than the previous year's record level of 89,659 acres. The 2003 total is just 35 percent of the 2010 restoration goal of 185,000 acres.

Abundant bay grasses are essential to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, as they produce oxygen, provide food for a variety of animals, provide shelter and nursery areas for juvenile striped bass and crabs, and reduce pollution by absorbing nutrients and trapping sediments.

Officials are still trying to determine how Hurricane Isabel and 2003's poor growing conditions will impact bay grasses this year.

"While near normal river flows and precipitation thus far in 2004 may allow SAV to bounce back this year, last year's dramatic drop in bay grasses should serve as a stark reminder that we must do much more to reduce the nutrients and sediment clouding our waters every year," said Chesapeake Bay Program Director Rebecca Hanmer.

Mapped totals for the three Bay zones and percent change from 2002 to 2003 (only areas mapped in both years are used to calculate change):

* Upper Chesapeake Bay (Susquehanna River south to the Chester and Magothy Rivers) -- decreased by 21 percent to 10,416 acres from 13,166 acres in 2002;

* Middle Bay (Chesapeake Bay Bridge south to the Rappahannock River and Pocomoke Sound) -- decreased by 42 percent to 30,475 acres from 52,973 acres in 2002;

* Lower Bay (Rappahannock River and Pocomoke Sound south to the Bay's confluence with the Atlantic Ocean) decreased by 12 percent to 20,802 from 23,520 acres in 2002.

The annual survey is conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and is derived from more than 2,000 aerial photographs taken between May and October.