Annapolis creek to get new depths for race


September 28, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY

Annapolis plans to dredge parts of Spa Creek in November to make room for the Volvo Ocean Race boats that will stop over in the city next spring.

Under the plan, the city will spend about $600,000 to even out a 50-foot-wide swath of seafloor from Prince George Street to the mouth of the Severn River.

"We're really only taking a few bumps out of the channel," said City Administrator Bob Agee.

Most of that channel is 17 feet deep at a mean low tide, but there are mounds of silt that decrease the depth to 13 feet at places, Agee said.

Those mounds could mean the Volvo boats, which draw almost 15 feet, could get stuck in the mud if they attempted to navigate the current waters going to the City Dock.

City officials could not recall when the channel was last dredged, and believe it could have been 25 or 30 years ago, Agee said.

"We just don't get a lot of silting in that area," he said.

While the immediate reason for the dredging is the Volvo race, Agee said that the deeper channel will have additional benefits.

"As the recreational boating industry evolves, we're having deeper drafts for boats that go out and do ocean racing," Agee said. "It keeps us on the map as a major center of sailing."

From an economic perspective, owners of big boats tend to spend a lot of money when they dock at a port, according to a recent study done by the Marine Trades Association of Maryland. Owners of boats that are 60 feet or longer spent an average of $56,000 while they were docked last year, according to the study.

But many of the mega-yachts - those over 100 feet - don't come to Annapolis, said Susan Zellers, a spokeswoman for the association.

"There is a significant number of larger boats going from Maine to Florida," Zellers said.

"Many are skipping stopping here because they can only get in to Baltimore. I think dredging can make a difference" in attracting them.

Lee Tawney, secretary of Ocean Race Chesapeake, agrees that the dredging will attract bigger boats, but would like to see the channel deeper than 17 feet.

"There are other events that we would like to bring to Annapolis that would require more depth," he said, noting that tall ships would require deeper water.

Agee said that there has been some talk about deepening additional parts of the channel and other parts of the harbor, but the current plan involves removing about 14,000 cubic yards of very fine silt - roughly enough material to fill 875 dump trucks.

The silt will be swapped for courser material from a Baltimore dredging project, Agee said. The Baltimore dredge material will then by used for a wetlands and habit restoration project at Greenbury Point.

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