Assembly OKs bay dredging deal

Compromise forbids the dumping of spoil except at Pooles Island

March 23, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

A historic compromise between the Maryland Port Administration and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation over the thorny issue of dredging won the endorsement of the General Assembly yesterday without a single dissenting vote.

Both the Senate and the House of Delegates unanimously approved legislation formally banning the dumping of dredge spoil in the bay except for one location at Pooles Island near the mouth of the Gunpowder River.

The legislation also would set up a process, which would include port officials and environmentalists, for developing a long-term plan for disposal of the muck from the bay's shipping channels.

Lawmakers praised the agreement as an important step forward for the environmental health of the bay and the economic health of the port, which depends on dredging to keep the channels deep enough for modern ships to reach Baltimore Harbor.

"It's a great bill," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, the Senate sponsor and a leader of environmental forces. "The Department of Transportation and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation deserve a lot of credit for what I hope is a final resolution of this issue."

The legislation puts into effect a deal negotiated by the bay foundation and the state in February.

Under the pact, port officials and bay advocates would end their years of squabbling over how to dispose of dredge spoil and work collaboratively on a solution. In effect, the port conceded that the dredged material should be disposed of in the least environmentally harmful way, while the bay foundation agreed that the port's viability was vital to the state.

The agreement calls for an end to the remaining dumping at Pooles Island by 2010. An executive council of port officials and environmentalists will study a variety of alternatives, including using the dredged material to restore eroding islands and waterfronts.

A spokesman said Gov. Parris N. Glendening was pleased with the vote. "The most important result of this bill is that it will help to ensure that Maryland will live up to the standards we set in the Chesapeake 2010 Agreement," spokesman Michael Morrill said.

He was referring to last summer's multistate agreement calling for an end to open bay dumping by 2010. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and the federal Environmental Protection Administration are signatories to the pact.

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