The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had all but ruled out dredging a small boating channel in the mud flats of Weems Creek, yesterday offered to reconsider the project.
"You've turned my thinking around somewhat," Thomas Filip, a Corps official from the Baltimore District, told about 20 creek advocates gathered at a pier in the Admiral Heights section of Annapolis. "I'm going to try like crazy to work it."
The corps, in turn, will try to sell other agencies on the idea of
dredging as part of a broader stream care program, he said.
"The idea of doing it as a total restoration project will be good," said Elizabeth McWethy, who heads the Weems Creek Conservancy, a coalition of neighborhood groups.
Initially, Mr. Filip told creek advocates that federal agencies would oppose dredging the shallow creek, which is lush with underwater plants. Regulations governing the Chesapeake Bay say the plants are a haven for young crabs and trap pollutants, he said.
More than a year ago, county and Annapolis officials proposed dredging a 650-foot-long path to restore a boating channel in what is mostly muck near Route 50.
Silt -- from construction of the Annapolis Mall to widening of Route 50 to recent residential construction -- has so filled Weems that pelting rain churns the tiny waterway into a "butterscotch cloud," said Dean L. Johnson, the Annapolis alderman whose district includes the area.
Organizations are planting trees at the headwaters of the creek to buffer highway noise, stem erosion and soak up nutrients. They want to create marshes using the dredge spoil and the rubble from the anticipated demolition of the Ridgely Avenue bridge.
Anne Arundel County finished re-creating Cowhide Branch -- a Weems Creek tributary that had been obliterated by the 1993 blow-out of a storm water pond behind the Annapolis Mall.
Tom Andrews, chief land use officer, plans a similar project for this fall at the West Street tributary, considered the largest source of sediment runoff in Weems.
Admiral Heights wants to add a community pier to the dredged channel, said Dan Masterson, a community board member.
After hearing the community's vision for trying to heal the ailing creek, Mr. Filip said he would re-examine dredging as part of the broader scheme.
He asked the volunteers and representatives of local government to give him with more information about creek restoration efforts.
Mr. Filip's acknowledged that his attitude changed from when he arrived an hour earlier.
"It takes some time to really schmooze and turn a bad idea into a good idea," Mr. Filip said.
Local officials said they have offered to shrink the scope of the project and create a marsh to offset the environmental damage done by dredging.
"We are not talking about dredging Grand Cooley Dam here," Mr. Andrews said.