Creek dredge plan frustrated by fear of muck dump hazard PASADENA

October 02, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The northeast wind leaves Walter Hagan Sr. high and dry on Wharf Creek.

At least once a week, the wind blows the creek's shallow waters about 20 feet out from his pier, exposing mud, algae and debris. If he mistimes trips on his 25-foot fishing boat and returns at low tide, "I'm stranded. I can't get back in," Mr. Hagan said yesterday.

It hasn't always been that way, said Donald Trice, Mr. Hagan's neighbor in the Green Gables community. The creek has became more and more shallow as a field behind the Chesapeake High School complex has eroded over the past two decades. Only recently has the erosion been shored up.

For six years, residents along Wharf Creek have been working with the county Department of Public Works to restore the creek and reopen a boating channel. All they lacked was permission from the county Board of Education to move the eroded dirt to another field behind the school.

Mr. Hagan said he expected smooth sailing at a school board meeting last month. He believed approval was a mere formality.

But a group of residents from the Cedarwood Cove community took exception to the project, challenging the wisdom of dumping the mud there.

Vernon Plack, president of the Cedarwood Cove Community Association, said yesterday his neighbors worry that the mud, which would take more than five years to dry, would stink and pose a health hazard. He said he's worried about its affects on the students and on his community, which is adjacent to the 3-acre dump site.

Mr. Plack said he does not oppose the dredging itself. He just does not believe "we should be putting the spoil where there are so many people running around."

As a result, county spokeswoman Anne Sieling said plans to dredge the creek have been put on hold while engineers try to find an alternative dump site.

Prompted by the residents, the county has spent six years negotiating with the school board, installing better erosion controls at the school and seeking the necessary permits for the dredging.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued the final permit in April.

The county proposed dredging 8,200 cubic yards of mud from the creek's bottom and dumping it on an 3-acre field behind Chesapeake Middle School, Ms. Sieling said. That would create a channel nearly 2,000 feet long, 50 feet wide and 5 feet deep, she said.

The project would cost nearly $244,000. The county has allocated $50,000 -- half coming from a state grant -- for the final design.

Ms. Sieling said the state had promised to pay for half of the entire project. But that money was cut as lawmakers attempted to balance the state budget last year, she said. The county could reapply for money next year.

If the county cannot find a better site, Ms. Sieling said, it still could ask for school board permission to use the school site.

"As far as I know, [the eroded dirt] is just storm water runoff," said Mike McLaren, president of the Green Gables Improvement Association. "I don't see why there is a problem taking it and putting it back where it came from."

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