Maryland to offer 2 dump sites Dredge-spoil options promised by summer

March 19, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Glendening administration officials said yesterday that they would propose two options by this summer for an Upper Bay dredge disposal site, but they cautioned lawmakers that political opposition and regulatory hassles could delay such a facility up to 10 years, twice as long as lawmakers want.

Nevertheless, members of a House committee warned yesterday that failure to move quickly on an Upper Bay facility, similar to Hart-Miller Island, could force the legislature to begin work on an environmentally controversial plan to pump clean dredge material into an area of the Chesapeake Bay known as the Deep Trough.

"I need to hear three to five years," said Del. Ronald A. Guns, a Cecil County Democrat who is chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee. "That's the way we'll avoid Deep Trough."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening along with environmentalists and watermen is strongly opposed to the Deep Trough proposal, as are many legislators. But proponents including an unusual coalition of business and labor leaders say it would give Maryland a long-range, cost-efficient solution to the dilemma over where to put mud and silt scooped out of the state's shipping channels.

The House of Delegates' version of the 1996-1997 budget calls for an environmental assessment of Deep Trough to begin by June 30, 1997, if the Glendening administration isn't moving forth with a complete long-term strategic plan.

With 126 miles of waterways feeding the port of Baltimore, Maryland's dredging needs are greater than any in the country. But, with Maryland's only major disposal site, Hart-Miller Island, rapidly filling up, dredging has been reduced to a minimum.

Business and legislative leaders say the governor has failed to articulate a comprehensive dredging strategy, even as the port struggles to remain viable in its competition for ships and cargo.

But top environmental, transpor- tation and natural resources officials insisted yesterday that Mr. Glendening has a long-term plan that tries to balance economic and environmental needs. While the administration has not formally proposed an Upper Bay site, as called for by a House resolution, it has been studying potential sites.

"No one can assert we're not fully engaged and moving forth with a comprehensive plan," Secretary of Transportation David L. Winstead told the Environmental Matters Committee yesterday.

The secretary outlined short-term plans that included raising the dikes at Hart-Miller Island, more open water disposal at Pooles Island, disposal of Inner Harbor material at Cox Creek and the restoration of Poplar Island, once a popular bay resort near Talbot County that has become a cluster of tidal mud flats and marshy knolls.

Mr. Glendening has budgeted $35 million this year to develop 550 acres of Poplar Island, the first phase of a 1,100-acre beneficial-use project that is likely to attract federal funding. Still, with the ultimate price expected to approach $300 million or more, Poplar Island is by far the most costly option $10 per cubic yard as opposed to $3 per cubic yard for an Upper Bay containment facility.

As evidence of how long it could take to develop an Upper Bay site, administration officials told the House committee that it has taken nearly six years to get most of the permits for Poplar Island, which has virtually no opposition.

Although the battle to build Hart-Miller Island in southeast Baltimore County lasted 10 years, Maryland officials say federal authorities already have promised to expedite the permit process for a new dumping site for dredge spoil.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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