Muck dredged from the bottom of the Magothy River may be used to repair the badly eroded banks of Dobbins Island.
The uninhabited island, also known as Dutch Ship Island, once formed a peninsula in Sillery Bay west of Gibson Island. But time and the tide have sliced away the earth, cutting the island off from the mainland.
"You could probably still walk between the island and the mainland at low tide," said Robert Agee, an aide to state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer.
At the request of Magothy residents, Agee said, state and federal officials are considering a plan to halt the erosion by using dredge material to rebuild the island's banks and, if possible, create a wetland habitat for wildlife.
Michael Christianson, president of the Magothy River Association, which represents residents around the river, said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the plan. "Any time you talk about dredging or putting dredge material back in the water, you raise some serious environmental concerns," he said.
On the other hand, he said, the project promises to restore an area devoid of aquatic plants and wildlife. It also could help Magothy residents win approval of their plans to dredge recreational boating channels through their creeks, Christianson said.
"A problem in the Magothy is that erosion from so much development has left a lot of sediment in the creeks," Christianson said. "The obstacle that classically prevents (dredging) from being done is, where do youput those spoils?"
The Dobbins Island project primarily would usematerial scraped from the bottom of the river's creeks, said James Gutman, a member of the Magothy River Association. But state officialsalso have debated the use of "clean" material dredged from Baltimore's shipping channels, he said.
The state will dredge an estimated 100 million cubic yards of material from the port's shipping lanes over the next 20 years and is quickly running out of space to put it. Astate task force, headed by Lighthizer, is investigating using unpolluted dredge material to replenish beaches, restore wetlands, cap landfills and provide traction on icy roads.
"This is all clean material," Agee said. "We should use it in a way that enhances the environment."
However, Agee said the project at Dobbins Island -- part ofthe estate of the late George W. Dobbins -- would probably be limited to "spoil" taken from the Magothy.
Stemming erosion is the "overriding" concern at Dobbins, Agee said. If engineers determine the dredge material will not help, the project will not go forward, he said.
Christianson said residents want assurances that the project is environmentally sound, that the island will be placed under a conservation easement or government control and that the project will not interfere with boaters.
State officials will appoint a citizens committee to oversee the project's design after meeting with the Magothy River Association later this month, Agee said.