Bay channels needed for city port to thrive

Dredging: Legislature should let good science, not populist politics, determine future of Site 104.

March 18, 2000

IN AN ideal world, there'd be no need for open-water disposal of sediment dredged from Chesapeake ship channels. But we live in an imperfect world, where complex problems defy easy answers.

That's why the state of Maryland, after exhaustive discussions, devised a plan to serve the imperatives of both the port of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay.

The 20-year plan called for disposing of just 18 percent of the silt and mud through open-water dumping at Site 104, near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Opponents want to kill the project. Their latest effort is in Annapolis, where they are pushing bills to bar dumping at Site 104 and other bay locations.

Their effort is extraordinarily shortsighted. They are unwilling to wait until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers renders its verdict this summer on the environmental impact of Site 104.

Legislators should resist the temptation to get involved. More than 500 sites have been considered without finding a better one. The disposal method has been carefully studied to ensure minimum long-term impact.

Channel dredging is needed to keep the port of Baltimore open. Deeper channel approaches and dockside berths are needed to draw new business to the port, a major economic engine.

Among essential projects is deepening the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, a shortcut from the Atlantic that saves ships six or seven hours. In today's cutthroat maritime industry, this is a substantial incentive to use Baltimore.

The project will require use of Site 104 for C&D sediment. Opponents complain loudly but have yet to come up with a better idea.

"The decision should be based on science, not rhetoric," declared state transportation secretary John Porcari. He's right. There should be no emotional rush to judgment. This is a complex issue that experts should address without high-pressure political tactics.

Pub Date: 3/18/00

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