Gilchrest, Bentley speak to aldermen, representing two sides of bay issue

Annapolis council mulls resolution on dumping of dredged mud near bridge

January 11, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The political battle over the placement of dredged soil in the Chesapeake Bay moved to the Annapolis city council last night as the mayor and aldermen considered a resolution to oppose dumping near the Bay Bridge.

As of 9: 30 last night -- after an array of Maryland politicians spoke -- the council had yet to take a vote on the state's plan to dump 5,000 barge loads of mud and silt in a 4-mile stretch near Kent Island called Site 104 by federal officials.

Eastern Shore Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican whose 1st Congressional District includes Annapolis and part of Anne Arundel County, told the council about his efforts to block the dumping.

Gilchrest has been a leader in fighting the Maryland Port Administration's proposal to dump about 18 million cubic yards of mud and silt, which would be dredged from the bay's shipping channels.

"We need to restore the bay, not continue to put stress on it," Gilchrest told the council.

In favor of the dredge work and dumping was former Maryland Rep. Helen Delich Bentley -- long an advocate for the port of Baltimore -- who appeared last night to argue for the port plan.

Criticizing the debate as a political game, Bentley said prohibiting dredging would hurt Maryland's most crucial business.

"Mr. Gilchrest intends to shut down the port of Baltimore," said an emotional Bentley, a former federal maritime commissioner. Bentley asked the council to wait until an environmental study is completed -- probably by the end of the month -- before deciding.

Earlier in the day, Citizens Against Open Bay Dumping held a news conference to launch the second part of a $250,000 anti-dumping campaign and release an opinion poll that found a majority of Maryland voters against the plan.

Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican who introduced the resolution at the council's meeting last month, invited the congressman a few weeks ago, said Cathy Bassett, Gilchrest's press secretary.

McMillan said the site, about 78 feet deep in some places, was selected from 475 potential sites and had been used as a dredge dumping site from 1924 to 1975. Dumping was ceased, McMillan said, when studies revealed that 40 percent of the dredge migrated and threatened the ecosystem.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and several other Maryland representatives in Congress have supported the plan, but Gilchrest, as well as three federal agencies and a group of activists, have fought it since spring.

In other news, the council was scheduled to introduce a resolution to designate Newtowne 20, a public housing community, as a "drug-loitering free zone" last night. According to the resolution, the Newtowne Resident Council has applied for the designation and Annapolis police have reported three or more arrests for drug-related activity in the area, which includes a community building, Betsy Court and Brooke Court and open space.

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