Gilchrest opposes bay site for spoil Aberdeen Proving Ground suggested as alternative for dump

February 27, 1997|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest is urging state officials to abandon plans for an Upper Bay dredge spoil disposal site and instead to seek land for such a facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The proposed Upper Bay facility -- a man-made island of dredge material similar to Hart-Miller Island in southeast Baltimore -- is a key part of a 20-year comprehensive plan aimed at deciding where to put the mud and silt scooped from Maryland's extensive shipping channels.

But, as state officials mull four potential sites between the mouth of the Patapsco River and Pooles Island, community opposition is growing to the proposed island that could hold 100 million cubic yards of dredge material.

Ideally, says Gilchrest, the state could acquire a section of the Army testing site in Harford County, then pump dredge onto the land. "An awful lot of people on the Eastern Shore would just as soon not see any dredging at all," said the Republican congressman, who represents Maryland's 1st District, which includes the Eastern Shore.

Two Eastern Shore delegates have introduced a bill to block any construction of an Upper Bay facility. They are calling for Pooles Island, which is a part of Aberdeen Proving Ground, to be used instead.

"If they had a site at Aberdeen, state officials could give everything else up," Gilchrest said in an interview this week.

In fact, Maryland officials have negotiated informally with U.S. Army officials about acquiring land at Aberdeen.

"There's been lots of discussion back and forth about using Aberdeen Proving Ground, but frankly there have been concerns raised by the Army," said David W. Chapin, assistant deputy secretary of transportation. "Their reaction has been very negative."

Among other things, the Army testing site contains unexploded munitions and chemical wastes. "In general, what they said is it will be your responsibility to do the cleanup," Chapin said.

A spokesman for Aberdeen could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"We are willing to work with Congressman Gilchrest. It's a good idea with a lot of complicated issues," Chapin said. "What we don't want to do, however, is abandon plans for an Upper Bay containment site because of Aberdeen."

In addition to the Upper Bay containment facility, the state's six-point dredging plan includes some open water disposal, raising the dikes at the Hart-Miller Island containment facility and reactivating the CSX/Cox Creek containment site.

In addition, the plan calls for using clean dredge spoil to restore Poplar Island, a former Talbot County resort that has eroded to mud flats and tidal marshes.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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