Dredge spoil curb gains

Senate and House panels vote to ban dumping into bay

Final OK thought certain

March 17, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Two General Assembly committees gave a solid endorsement yesterday to an agreement banning the dumping of muck dredged from the port of Baltimore's shipping channels into the Chesapeake Bay.

The committee action clears the way for the full House and Senate to vote on the measure implementing the pact between the state and environmental groups as early as next week. Passage is virtually certain.

Both the House Environmental Matters Committee and the Senate Economic and Environmental Matters Committee unanimously approved the legislation without any amendments that could disrupt the landmark deal reached by the Maryland Port Administration and Chesapeake Bay Foundation last month.

"It was motherhood and apple pie all rolled into one," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, sponsor of the Senate bill. "When the port and the bay foundation agree, you know there's a fairly broad consensus."

The deal announced last month, which came after months of negotiations, called for legislation formally banning open-bay dumping except at one site near the mouth of the Gunpowder River. Under the bill, the state would stop using that site no later than 2010.

The bill also would set up an oversight panel that includes environmentalists and citizen groups to recommend a long-term plan for disposing of dredge material.

In the House committee, Baltimore County Del. Alfred W. Redmer Jr. tried to amend the bill to add more business and labor representation to the board overseeing the dredging agreement. The panel voted that down 11-8 after Chairman Ron Guns warned that it could upset the "delicate balance" of the agreement.

State officials need to find a long-term solution for disposing of an estimated 8 million cubic yards of material dredged from the bottom of the channels leading to the port of Baltimore.

As part of the agreement, the environmental groups have acknowledged the need to find a solution that preserves the economic health of the port as well as the health of the bay.

Port officials and the bay foundation had been at odds over the dredging issue for years until Gov. Parris N. Glendening decided last summer to halt plans to dump dredge spoil at Site 104 north of the Bay Bridge.

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