Officials discuss health of watershed

Weems Creek cleanup plan should be final by June

March 21, 2003|By Kory Dodd | Kory Dodd,SUN STAFF

After years of community lobbying, state and local representatives met this week to discuss the health of Weems Creek in Annapolis and their strategy for cleaning up the watershed, a complete plan for which is expected by June.

The State Highway Administration funded a $50,000 study by the Center for Watershed Protection in January 2001 to pinpoint problems in the nontidal portion of the watershed and suggest projects to fix them. At the same time, the Department of Natural Resources began its study of the creek's tidal shoreline.

Controversy about the state's plans to reconstruct a bridge over the creek and lobbying by the Weems Creek Conservancy prompted state, county and Annapolis authorities to take a closer look at the watershed's ecosystem.

They found that storm water runoff from nearby roads, buildings and parking lots was flooding streams that emptied into the creek, causing erosion and large amounts of sediment to be dumped into the creek, choking it.

"A lot of waterfront homeowners cannot get their boats off their piers because of the sedimentation," said Evan Belaga, president of the conservancy.

According to the watershed protection center's study, Annapolis was built before the government realized that storm water management was a problem. The study suggests ways to slow and filter storm water before it reaches the creek, using storm water ponds and bioremediation areas.

Frank Dawson, director of the DNR watershed restoration division, said a study planned for this summer would assess and further refine the cleanup and pollution prevention efforts.

State and local authorities have joined with the Naval Academy Athletic Association to fund a $1.2 million landscaping project for Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which will add native vegetation and storm water management techniques to help reduce runoff and filter what reaches the creek.

Annapolis received $50,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and $30,000 from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to help fund the project, said Marcia Patrick, the city's project manager. The county also will be involved in funding the project.

Cleanup efforts will focus on Porter Drive Outfall, a storm water channel flowing into the creek. The channel has an erosion problem because of the speed and large amount of water flowing through it to the creek. Sediment has built up at its mouth.

The state and city have pledged $202,000 to clean sediment from the channel, Patrick said. The county will participate in the project. The groups also will discuss the possibility of buying Priest Point, the creek's only remaining wilderness.

"If that site is not managed, it'll contribute to the detriment of not only Weems Creek but the Severn River," said County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk.

The state has requested $4 million from the federal government for the Weems Creek Watershed Improvement Plan, said Raja Veeramachaneni, of SHA.

Costs for revitalization projects probably will exceed the amount, but the state is counting on the other organizations to share in the funding, he said.

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