Bay-spoil problem eased for moment Dikes to be raised at Hart-Miller containment facility

June 06, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Once again, state officials have turned to Hart-Miller Island to solve their dredging dilemma.

In Annapolis yesterday, the state Board of Public Works signed off on raising the containment facility's dikes an additional 16 feet to 44 feet, easing the growing urgency about where to put dredge material scooped from Maryland's extensive shipping channels.

While the Glendening administration is developing a long-term dredging strategy, none of the new disposal sites will be available immediately. And selection of a new containment facility site in the Upper Bay is still pending.

As a result, raising the dikes at the Hart-Miller containment facility in Southeast Baltimore became the focal point of the state's short-term dredging strategy, despite a "never again" promise to local residents in 1987 that the dikes had been raised for the last time.

"It's a critical part of our dredging program," Tay Yoshitani, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, said recently. Raising the dikes on the northern portion of Hart-Miller by an additional 16 feet will give Maryland another 30 million cubic yards of relatively inexpensive, disposal capacity over the next 12 years.

While the Hart-Miller expansion plan won support from labor, watermen and environmentalists, it encountered considerable opposition from southeast Baltimore County residents.

"Most people feel they've been betrayed, that they can't trust the state," said Sen. Norman R. Stone, a Baltimore County Democrat. "Hart-Miller was designed for 52 million cubic yards, and it will have 100 million by the time it's finished. You don't have to be an engineer to see that could pose real problems."

In January, state officials sought to raise the dikes by 10 feet, but they later requested 16 feet after an independent consultant said the facility could safely handle that amount.

"I thought they got greedy," Stone said, adding that state officials also should have capped the expansion at 44 feet.

Instead, the Board of Public Works yesterday left open the possibility that Hart-Miller could be further expanded someday. In approving a wetlands license modification to raise the dikes, the three-member board, chaired by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said that any effort to raise the dikes above 44 feet -- or after 2009 -- must be approved by both the board and the General Assembly.

With 126 miles of waterways feeding the port of Baltimore, the state's dredging needs are greater than any in the country. Since Hart-Miller opened in 1981, it has been the state's primary dredge-disposal site. But, in recent years, it has been rapidly filling up, and dredging has been reduced to bare minimum.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had estimated that Maryland will face a serious shortfall in disposal capacity in less than five years, without new options.

Today, the completed portion of Hart-Miller, known as the South Cell, has been developed as a popular spot for recreational boating and camping. The North Cell, where the additional dredging will take place, is still being used for dredge disposal. It is also slated for recreational use after all dredging ends.

Initially, all contaminated material from the Inner Harbor was disposed at Hart-Miller. While contaminated dredge can still be disposed of at Hart-Miller, most is slated for a new disposal site at CSX/Cox Creek in Anne Arundel County.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.