A controversial plan to dump dredged material in an area of Chesapeake Bay known as the Deep Trough appears to be doomed by opposition from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
In his strongest statement yet on the subject, Schaefer declared yesterday at a meeting of the Board of Public Works: "You're not going to get in that trough for four years. . . . I am not going into that Deep Trough unless the world collapses." Schaefer spoke as a dredging-disposal plan was briefly discussed.
The remarks cheered at least one environmentalist. "I'm very happy to hear those statements," said Shannon Varner, a member of a dredging task force appointed by Schaefer and a biologist and staff attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "They show a great concern for the quality of the bay. As it stands now, we do not support the use of the Deep Trough. There are a lot of unknowns about it."
The Maryland Port Administration, working with several agencies and groups associated with maritime business and Chesapeake Bay, decided last year to study the disposal of uncontaminated dredge waste in the trough, a deep, nearly lifeless portion of the bay extending southward from Kent Island.
Environmentalists were skeptical of the Deep Trough plan from the start, saying it could interfere with marine life and pollute an untainted part of the bay.
But the port administration said it is a safe way to dispose of millions of cubic yards of material scooped from shipping channels. The channels have to be cleaned periodically to keep them from filling in and blocking ship traffic to the Port of Baltimore.
Several months ago, Schaefer asked for a re-examination of the Deep Trough plan. He appointed a task force to study the issue. The panel, one of several that have been convened to seek solutions to dredge-disposal problems, has met several times, and a final report is expected next month.
Of the Deep Trough proposal, Isaac Shafran, director of jTC development for the port administration, said, "The task force has not reached a conclusion, but there is obviously opposition to it."
Port officials proposed the Deep Trough as a site for the disposal of dredged material uncontaminated by pollution. For contaminated material dredged from the Patapsco River and Inner Harbor, a diked basin is under consideration.
Yesterday, a proposal to spend $948,771 on three possible sites for the disposal of contaminated material was withdrawn from consideration by the Board of Public Works for the second month in a row. Shafran said the delays were caused by turnover in key agencies.
Under the proposal, Gahagan & Bryant Associates Inc. of Baltimore would conduct an environmental and engineering study of Thoms Cove near Hawkins Point, Sollers Point near the Dundalk Marine Terminal and the Deadship Anchorage in the Curtis Bay area.
The 15-month contract is designed to ensure that a site is found for the contaminated waste before the existing Hart-Miller Island diked area is filled up over the next five or 10 years, Shafran said.
"We need to inform some additional groups and people" before the plan can be brought back to the board, Shafran said.
Of the study, Schaefer said, "The price is outrageous . . . I don't like the way this is dragging on, dragging on, dragging on."