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Legislature Protects Unicorn Lake from Landfill
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by Loretta C. Walls | 2006

Last Minute Politicking Bars Landfill Development within Four Miles of Lake Unicorn

Residents of Queen Anne’s County and Prince George’s County scored a major victory in the General Assembly, with the passage of Senate Bill 51 (SB 51), the Unicorn Lake Bill. This bill prohibits the construction of any landfills within four miles of Unicorn Lake, and, as passed, grants a three year moratorium on landfills in that area. The amended version of the bill just made it under the wire, as it was approved by the House of Delegates less than two hours before the Maryland General Assembly ended. Senator Mike Miller really put some teeth in the bill when he added an amendment which also banned landfills along the Potomac tributaries in Prince George’s County.

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Gene Ransom wrote the original bill for the 2004-2005 General Assembly session and encouraged the support of all five county commissioners. They, in turn, encouraged the Eastern Shore delegation to present the bill in the General Assembly. Also, U.S. Congressman Wayne Gilchrest has been very supportive of the Unicorn Lake issue since the Millington Quality of Life Preservation Coalition was formed in 1996.

The Unicorn Lake bill failed in the House and Senate in 2005, but this year Senator E.J. Pipkin took it to the Senate, and Delegate Michael Smigiel sponsored it in the House. Though the bill was supported by Senator Mike Miller, it was struck down in the House by Environmental Matters Committee Chairperson Maggie McIntosh. We then asked Speaker Michael Busch to help us save SB 51.

Many people worked as a team and many members and friends made countless calls to Annapolis to garner support for SB 51. On the last day of the General Assembly session, Commissioner Ransom and Jay Falstad of the Unicorn Conservancy followed every move of the General Assembly

We appreciate all the help from the Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter and  Eastern Shore Group; the Chester River Association; the Washington College Student Alliance; The Millington Quality of Life members; and John Nickerson, Environmental Health Officer for Queen Anne’s County. We appreciate the investigative work and documentation of Sveinn Storm, who reported on the pollution done by New Earth Services and Days Cove Reclamation in Dorchester County and brought in the news media from Channel 11.

The May 2 signing of the bill by Governor Ehrlich was a momentous occasion. Several members of local groups attended the signing in Annapolis.

This was a bipartisan bill that showed that Democrats and Republicans can put their minds together for the good of the county and our state.

The Eastern Shore Sierra Group is planning a picnic at Unicorn Lake near Millington with a tentative date of Sunday, July 30, 2006 and a rain date of Sunday, August 6, 2006. As plans are still in the making, we will give more information in the next month. You are welcome to bring your canoes, kayaks and fishing poles (don’t forget your fishing license), so you can thoroughly enjoy this 42-acre lake.

You may call Diane Bedlin at 410-643-3283 for information. Come help us celebrate our victory!   

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