Bay model, site given back to state

January 13, 1994|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

A decade after pulling the plug on a huge, problem-ridden working model of the Chesapeake Bay, the federal government is giving the abandoned facility and its 55-acre Kent Island site back to the state of Maryland.

The state Board of Public Works voted yesterday to accept the property near Matapeake, which Maryland sold to the Army Corps of Engineers for $10 in 1970. The corps spent $30 million to build a concrete hydraulic model of the bay in a mammoth 14-acre warehouse there and to run it for six years.

Once billed as "the most significant environmental tool on the East Coast," the model was used to study how the bay's waters circulate. But the ersatz estuary was hampered by falling insulation and heaving floors, and scientists differ on how useful it was in understanding the bay's pollution problems. The physical model of the bay was supplanted by more sophisticated computer simulations.

After the bay model was closed in 1984, the National Security Agency used the warehouse for storage. But the General Services Administration declared the dilapidated warehouse and land surplus property in 1992 and proposed selling them to the state for "fair market value" or to the highest private bidder.

At the behest of Maryland's delegation, Congress ordered the GSA in October to give the property to the state.

"The state wanted this land back to prevent development on a site so close to the bay," said Martin W. Walsh Jr., the state general services secretary. "We would rather see something environmentally sensitive, such as a park or golf course, on this property, rather than new houses or businesses."

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