Balto. County to push for dredging 4 waterways

Marinas, restaurants on Middle River at stake, officials say

September 01, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Saying the future of maritime businesses and recreational boating is at stake, Baltimore County will press ahead with its request to dredge four Middle River waterways, even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is likely to deny the request.

County officials are concerned that vessels -- particularly sailboats -- can't make it into the channels and are seeking permits to dredge Greyhound Cove, Chestnut Cove, Frog Mortar Creek and Galloway Creek. More than 300 homes and 20 marinas, restaurants and other water-dependent businesses are on those waterways.

The Corps has told the county that dredging would threaten aquatic grasses and has urged the county to drop its requests. But Candace Szabad, supervisor of field operations for the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, said the county will not.

"This is a recreational dredging project. It is also an economic development project for the welfare of the marinas and restaurants," she said.

Marinas say their business has been hurt by the condition of the creeks.

"It's pretty serious," said Milton Rehbein, owner of Galloway Creek Marina. "We're probably off 20 percent because the boats can't get in."

Bob Palmer, owner of Tradewinds Marina, says the aquatic grasses the Corps wants to protect probably will survive, but the marinas might not.

He has watched the number of sailboats in his marina drop from 78 to five in the past 15 years because the water depth has shrunk from 6 feet to 5 1/2 feet. While motorboats can make the trip, the long keels of sailboats drag in the mud.

"Sailboats cannot any longer count on coming into the marina," said Palmer, who is convinced that dredging's disturbance to the aquatic grasses would be temporary.

Szabad said the county knew the four dredging requests would be debated. "We tried everything to reduce the impact," she said.

The county has offered to replant grasses and study the long-term effects of dredging on submerged vegetation if the Corps approves the permits, she said. "The county's position is dredging can be beneficial," she said.

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