THE REGION

Another Snakehead Caught in Potomac

A Virginia fisheries worker caught a two-pound northern snakehead in the Potomac River yesterday, the 17th snagged in a 14-mile stretch of the Potomac and its tributaries since May.

Technician Scott Herrmann found the 19-inch female at the Mount Vernon Yacht Club. The carcass was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for genetic tests.

Experts worry that the snakehead could seriously damage the river's ecosystem if left to breed unchecked in the shallow, grassy waters it prefers. One fear is that the predator could wipe out the river's smallmouth bass population.

THE DISTRICT

Mayor Signs Southwest Waterfront Bill

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday signed into law a bill that authorizes creation of a corporation to oversee redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront.

Over the next 20 to 30 years, the Anacostia Development Corp. is supposed to head a multibillion-dollar effort to create neighborhoods and parks, rebuild streets, highways and bridges, clean the Anacostia River's polluted waters and reposition the riverfront as a prime place to visit and live.

The D.C. Council approved the legislation last month. It's up to Williams (D) to nominate a chief executive and a board of directors for the corporation. All nominees require confirmation by the council.

Sales Tax Holiday Begins Tomorrow

The District will begin a summer tax-free shopping promotion tomorrow to encourage area residents to make back-to-school purchases at city stores.

Shoppers will not have to pay the 5.75 percent city sales tax on school supplies, clothing, shoes, accessories and jewelry, provided that each item has a retail price of less than $100. The promotion will end Aug. 15.

In recent years, the city held tax holidays on an experimental basis. After businesses reported a spike in sales, the D.C. Council put back-to-school and holiday season tax holidays in a law this year.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), who sponsored the legislation, said the holiday is intended to make school supplies and other items more affordable to lower-income consumers at a time when they do a lot of shopping. She also said she hopes the holiday will motivate city and suburban residents to shop in the District all year long. The back-to-school holiday will run each year from the first Saturday to the second Sunday in August.

D.C. Officer Convicted of Assault

An off-duty D.C. police officer was convicted of simple assault in D.C. Superior Court yesterday on charges that she beat up a fellow patron during a Disney ice-skating show at MCI Center.

Officer Marjorie Temple, assigned to the 3rd Police District, was sentenced by Judge Zinora Mitchell-Rankin to 180 days in jail, although the judge suspended all but 15 days of that sentence. Temple also will spend two years on parole.

The evidence at trial showed that Temple and several others arrived late to the 1:30 p.m. performance of Disney on Ice, an ice-skating show for children, on Feb. 15. As Temple and her companions made their way to their seats, she exchanged words with a 37-year-old woman who had to stand to let her pass. Temple then shoved the woman back into her chair and began punching her in the head and the face. The victim tried to shield her 4-year-old child, seated next to her, from the blows. Bystanders had to pull Temple off the victim, who suffered a swollen face, scratches, bruises and a welt on her back.

MARYLAND

State, Town Discuss Moratorium

Officials from Middletown and the Maryland Department of the Environment met privately yesterday to discuss a building moratorium imposed last month by the state amid concern over available water supplies.

Though the moratorium will remain in effect, both sides described the meeting between Environment Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick and town officials as positive and productive. State officials said they will give expedited review to proposed water sources identified by the town as well as to hardship cases of home buyers whose building plans were halted by the moratorium.

Burgess John D. Miller, in a news release, said the environmental department has pledged to look into whether the town can proceed with plans to build an elementary school. Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the department, said in an interview that the agency did not intend to block its construction.

Ehrlich Fills Seat in House

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has appointed Republican Tanya A. Thornton Shewell to an open seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. Shewell will represent Carroll County, replacing Carmen Amedori (R), who stepped down to join the state Parole Commission.

Shewell, 60, has never held political office but has served as an officer in the county's Republican Women's Club. She and her husband, Ralph, are co-chairmen of President Bush's reelection campaign in Carroll County.

The appointment Wednesday came as House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) administered the oath of office to Sue Kullen, a Calvert County Democrat, who is replacing former House majority whip George W. Owings III in the House of Delegates. Owings (D) vacated his seat to become Ehrlich's secretary of veterans affairs. Kullen, 44, is a consultant who works with the disabled and agencies serving the disabled community.

VIRGINIA

Fire Damage Estimated at $2 Million

Construction workers doing renovation work Wednesday morning on a McLean home apparently started an accidental two-alarm fire that caused about $2 million in damage but no serious injuries, Fairfax County fire officials said yesterday.

The blaze was sparked about 9:30 a.m. in the basement of a home in the 6500 block of West Langley Lane. Fire department spokesman Dan Schmidt said investigators believe that flammable liquids being used near a gas water heater were the cause.

Firefighters controlled the fire within 20 minutes, Schmidt said. Two firefighters were treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital for minor injuries, he said. Smoke and water damage extended throughout the house, authorities said.

"During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, you didn't see this kind of thing. Fear shouldn't grip the nation like this. It's demoralizing that a few people could cause a wall of change that affects the city's character and image of this country."

-- E. Ini, a cabdriver and Nigerian immigrant on the security measures instituted since the latest terror threat. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Debbi Wilgoren, Dakarai I. Aarons, Neely Tucker, Fredrick Kunkle, Matthew Mosk and Tom Jackman and the Associated Press.