Weems Creek cleanup to take a new approach

June 09, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County consultant plans to use stones, uprooted trees and vegetation to clean up a tributary of Weems Creek destroyed in March when a storm water dam near Annapolis Mall collapsed.

The method is a sharp break with traditional solutions that rely on stone gabions and concrete splash-ways to channel storm waters and control eroding banks.

When the 20-foot embankment collapsed March 4, it sent a wall of sediment and construction debris coursing through the stream and creating a 2,000-foot wedge of muck, obliterating the tributary, said Robert Sheesley, co-owner of Brightwater Inc., the consultants.

"The channel is completely gone," Mr. Sheesley said.

In addition, the county plans to spend about $500,000 this fall to repair the embankment, which washed downstream after a corrugated metal drain pipe collapsed.

Darryl Hockstra, a supervisor with the county Department of Public Works, Bureau of Highways, said the new design calls for a concrete pipe cradled in a concrete casing.

Mr. Hockstra said the construction should be complete by December. The county paid about $275,000 for the original dam, part of a pond designed to control erosion from the county's Bestgate Road construction and the expansion of Annapolis Mall.

Deputy County Attorney Steve LeGendre said the county hopes a bond set aside by P&J Contracting Co., which installed the pipe, will pay for the repairs. The county has notified the Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland, which holds the bond, that it believes faulty workmanship was responsible.

P&J Contracting has filed for bankruptcy.

County officials presented the plans yesterday to residents, environmentalists and state regulators.

"We applaud the county's higher standard here," said Brad Iarossi, chief of dam safety at the state Department of Natural Resources. "We think that will last a lot longer."

To make the repairs, Brightwater also must solve a problem that existed before the blowout, Mr. Sheesley said. Storm waters washing off nearby suburban streets and yards had begun to erode the stream's banks and clog the bottom.

"That process has been going on here and been contributing to the sediments entering Weems Creek for a long time," Mr. Sheesley said.

Environmentalists and neighbors worry that the consultants will make the problem worse before it gets better. But, Mr. Sheesley said, when he is done, residents will not know he ever has been there.

Elizabeth McWethy, president of the Weems Creek Conservancy, a residents group, lauded yesterday's presentation. Now, she said, members of the conservancy would take the proposal home and dissect it.

County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat, said she, too, was impressed with the county's plan.

But, she said, "I'm sick about the fact that it's needed. All that money, it's a shame."

The storm water pond became the focus of a legal fight last year between Annapolis Mall and Woodward & Lothrop, which has a store a half-mile away. Woodies' officials maintained that the pond was improperly designed.

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