Clutching a worn guitar with note cards taped to its side, Tom Wis-ner -- his straw-like white hair tied back in a thin ponytail -- sang to the Calvert County commissioners Tuesday of his memories and hopes for the Patuxent River.
"I want you to pay attention to these waters," he said to the commissioners. "They give life to us."
Wisner -- a Southern Maryland naturalist and musician -- was part of a presentation led by former state senator Bernie Fowler to inform the county commissioners of initiatives to restore the Patuxent River and to seek their support.
"The river belongs to all of us," said Frederick L. Tutman, the newly appointed "riverkeeper" of the Patuxent who accompanied Fowler and Wisner on Tuesday. "When we see it degraded, something has gone askew. . . . Something isn't balanced."
Tutman is one of 125 "riverkeepers" nationwide and operates under the Waterkeeper Alliance as a spokesman for the river. His position will become full time beginning this fall.
"The river needs an advocacy voice, and that's the premise of the riverkeeper," Tutman said.
An unofficial lifetime defender of the Patuxent, Wisner spoke from his own memories of the river -- Chesapeake born and raised, Wis-ner brought up his eldest son to become a regional waterman on the Maryland state boat, the skipjack.
"That young man who's now in his forties is working out of Alaska," Wisner said, his voice tight. "So he's the first of eight generations of our family to have to leave these rivers to make a life."
Wisner has founded an intergenerational discussion called the "Year of the River" to pass his generation's love for the Patuxent to the next generation, he said.
Fowler recalled the transparent river of his youth, during a time that farms covered much of Southern Maryland.
"The farmers are being wrongly accused of demising this river," he said.
He held urbanization responsible for the river's deterioration.
"I don't think time is on our side," Fowler said. "If we don't get something done soon, [the Patuxent] will be accepted as what it is, not what it was."
Umling Is New Planning Director
The Charles County commissioners have selected a new planning director to succeed Steve Magoon, who left five months ago for a new job in Boston after 15 years in county government.
David A. Umling of Oxford, Ala., will take over the top planning post starting Monday. Zakary Krebek had been serving as the acting director since Magoon's departure.
In his nearly 17-year-career, Umling has held several planning positions in New Hampshire, Vermont, Georgia and, most recently, Alabama, where he was planning director for the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission in Anniston. In this post, he oversaw planning issues in 10 counties, 59 municipalities and two small metropolitan areas, according to the Charles County government announcement of Umling's appointment.
Umling also holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Hartford and a master's in city planning from the University of California at Berkeley. He is married and has two children.
Award Out for Trophy's Return
The Governor's Cup caper happened nearly 20 years ago, when the trophy awarded to the winner of the sailing event vanished one night from the gymnasium at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
As this year's Governor's Cup Yacht Race approaches Aug. 6, the St. Mary's College Foundation is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of the trophy. Complete amnesty will be given to the person or persons responsible for the trophy's disappearance, the college said in announcing the reward offer.
Anyone with information about the trophy should contact Marc Apter, associate vice president of public relations for the college, at 240-895-4381.
"The College desperately wants to find this missing piece of the Governor's Cup's history," said Torre M. Meringolo, vice president for the college's Office of Development. In the announcement, he added with tongue firmly in cheek: "Finding a craftsman with the skills necessary to replicate this masterpiece of plywood and tarnished metal would be nearly impossible. We hope someone will come forward with information leading to the recovery of this irreplaceable trophy because St. Mary's has been deprived of this work of art long enough."
College officials want to display the long-lost trophy in the planned new boathouse, which will serve as a home for the St. Mary's national championship sailing team, the Seahawks, who earned top honors in the 2004 Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association/Layline North American Team Race Championship. The $4.5 million boathouse project, a centerpiece of the college's $40 million Heritage Campaign, is being funded entirely through private donations.
The future boathouse also will be a focal point for the finish of the annual Governor's Cup Yacht Race. This year's overnight race is set to begin in Annapolis on Aug. 6 and finish in St. Mary's City on Aug. 7.
Hoyer Given Science Award
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was recognized last week as a "Champion of Science" at a Capitol Hill event that drew university presidents, scientists and business leaders, as well as some fellow lawmakers.
Hoyer was recognized for his support for federal funding for the basic sciences and university-based research. He was among 47 honorees hosted by the Science Coalition at the group's Breakfast of Champions. New awardees included House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and Reps. Martin Olav Sabo (D-Minn.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.).
The six new and 41 previous champs were recognized for their support of federal funding for basic science research -- research that leads to new discoveries and to new applications that benefit society.
With the permission and assistance of General Mills, each honoree received a personalized box of Wheaties, which picture each as a champion.
The Science Coalition, which works to maintain federal support for scientific research, is an alliance of more than 400 organizations, institutions and individuals, run by public and private universities and including Nobel laureates, businesses, voluntary health organizations, medical groups, health care providers, and scientific societies.
Stadium Deal Detailed
The current issue of Business, the Charles County Chamber of Commerce bimonthly newsletter, takes a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the Hughesville baseball stadium deal.
The Charles County commissioners signed an agreement May 25 with private investors to share in the cost of building a 4,500-seat minor league baseball stadium in Hughesville.
In its cover story, "Inside baseball," the newsletter traces the idea for a stadium to a spring 2003 dinner party thrown by the wife of Waldorf banker Michael L. Middleton, who was chairman of the Charles County Economic Development Commission at the time.
The Maryland League of Conservation Voters released the 12th edition of its General Assembly Scorecard rating the environmental voting records of state legislators.
The scorecard looks at votes over the past two years on conservation issues such as cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, encouraging smart growth, stopping air pollution, protecting coastal bays and critical areas, and promoting clean energy.
The nonpartisan organization has been issuing the report cards on the performance of state legislators and the governor since 1979.
The scorecard shows that overall scores for the General Assembly were up slightly from the previous Scorecard: 73 percent House of Delegates average (up from 66 percent), and 68 percent Senate average (up from 60 percent). The percentages indicate the portion of key committee and floor votes on which legislators supported the environmental position, as defined by the league.
Continuing a recent trend, the scores show a growing gap between voting patterns of Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans on average scoring less than half that of Democrats in both houses.
Senators from Harford County scored the lowest in the state, with 4 percent.
The most improved delegation is the Southern Maryland Senate delegation, where the scores went from 68 percent to 87 percent.
For individual members of the Southern Maryland delegation, the scores were:
* Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), 92 percent.
* Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), 91 percent.
* Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's), 78 percent.
* Del. George W. Owings III (D-Calvert), 67 percent.
* Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert), 11 percent.
* Del. W. Louis Hennessy (R-Charles), 22 percent.
* Del. Sally Jameson (D-Charles), 50 percent.
* Del. Van T. Mitchell (D-Charles), 11 percent.
* Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary's), 45 percent.
* Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary's), 56 percent.
The various measures on which lawmakers were rated included legislation to increase penalties for violation of water quality and wetlands laws, the $2.50 per month sewer service surcharge to support treatment plant upgrades to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, the inclusion of private septic systems in the surcharge, legislation reaffirming protections for the state's shorelines, and the override of the veto by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) of a measure that promoted state purchases of environmentally preferable products even if they are not the lowest cost alternative.
The full scorecard is available online at www.mdlcv.org.
Too Costly a Journey
It may cost more to cross the Chesapeake Bay than folks on either side are willing to pay.
A proposed ferry linking Somerset County on the Eastern Shore with Northumberland County on Virginia's Northern Neck appears likely to need more public subsidies than officials in either state can afford, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported this week.
Such a ferry operation has been considered for years, and at times the proposal has included service to St. Mary's County -- although that is not part of the current discussion. The Maryland ferry terminal would be in Crisfield; in Virginia it would be in Reedville.
A recently completed $40,000 feasibility study is sinking earlier optimism about the project, which supporters in both states saw as something that would boost tourism and other economic development.
The study concluded that a service with two ferry vessels probably could break even on operating costs. However, anticipated revenue would not support the capital investment in two new ferries -- estimated at between $30 million and $36 million.
"The question is, can we secure the dollars to go forward?" Northumberland County Administrator Kenny Eades told the Times-Dispatch. The study's conclusion, he said, "is not good news."
Meeting on Hughesville Plan
The Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management will conduct a public information meeting to discuss a Hughesville Sub-Area Plan from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 4 at T.C. Martin Elementary School, 6315 Olivers Shop Rd., Bryantown.
In announcing the session, the county commissioners said the meeting is intended to give residents a chance to voice their views and visions for the future of Hughesville and changes that may be coming to the community, where major road improvements and possibly a minor league baseball stadium are planned.
Those planning to participate are asked to call the Planning Division at 301-645-0540, or via the Maryland Relay Service TDD at 711 before Aug. 3 if they have special needs in order to attend.
Questions about the proposal can be directed to Mary Grant at those numbers or by e-mail to email@example.com.