Dredge island foes speak out in House

Bill before committee would block dumping at site off Pasadena

March 02, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Local elected officials have taken their fight against the possible creation of a 1.5-mile-long island of dredge spoil in the Patapsco River to the legislature with a House bill that would block the state's proposal.

House Bill 402 would forbid dredge spoil dumping within 5 miles of the Cox Creek dredge-disposal site off Pasadena - a radius that would include an area called Site 170, north of Bodkin Point in the mouth of the river that is being disputed by Pasadena residents.

Since the fall, residents and elected officials have opposed the state's decision to place Site 170 on a list of locations being considered to hold 40 million to 80 million cubic yards of material to be dredged from Chesapeake Bay. They fear the dredge spoil could contaminate well water, increase the risk of local flooding, and harm fish and wildlife.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Mary M. Rosso, an Anne Arundel Democrat, was read Wednesday in the Environmental Matters Committee, which heard testimony from residents and elected officials. That bill and others concerning dredge disposal, which were also read during the session, are awaiting votes.

"I think we made a strong showing and made our point that we'll fight Site 170 tooth and nail," Rebecca Kolberg, co-chairwoman of Citizens Against the Pasadena Dredge Island, said yesterday. "If the [Maryland Port Administration] wants a dredge spoil site soon, they won't get it at Site 170."

Rosso told the committee the Patapsco River is already doing its share of keeping the Port of Baltimore viable, and neither the river nor its neighbors should have to face further environmental or health costs.

"I believe the creation of a dredge spoil island would overburden the Patapsco and the citizens who reside nearby," she said.

County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat, offered a solution to the committee - Thomas A. Flowers, president of the Dorchester Board of County Commissioners, welcomes the redeposit of dredge spoil on the county's James Island and Barren Island. Murphy also said six other counties, including Calvert, Caroline, Queen Anne's and Worchester, support Anne Arundel's opposition to Site 170.

However, while testifying in support of House Bill 1317, Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari told the committee not to eliminate any possibilities for dredge spoil placement.

House Bill 1317 would establish a phased-in ban on open-bay dumping, which does not include building dredge spoil islands.

Frank Hamons, the port's director of harbor development, opposed House Bill 402 because he said it could result in having to dump Baltimore Harbor material miles away once Cox Creek is full.

He also said he wants to consider all 24 dredge spoil placement options - eight upper-bay dumping sites and 16 other uses for the spoil - until some can be eliminated.

"What we didn't want to do was just arbitrarily eliminate a possibility because at this point in time somebody doesn't like it," he said yesterday.

Residents and local politicians also testified to support House Bill 527, which would set up a citizens oversight committee to monitor redeposit in Cox Creek and respond to complaints.

"If my mail is any indicator, you will certainly need help in responding to the many citizen activists from my district," Murphy told the committee. "From chemical plants to fly ash, we have learned to be vocal."

Lester A. Ettlinger, a member of Citizens Against the Pasadena Dredge Island, said the committee is needed to review the site and look at its technical evaluations.

"We want to have some assurance that things are being done properly," he said. "That makes a lot of common sense."

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