Dredging up a better channel for Annapolis

On the Water

Regional news

December 28, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY

Even as top sailors gathered in Annapolis last week for an announcement of a new Sailing Hall of Fame, the pre-event chatter was focused on something else.

People were looking at the black barge floating a few hundred yards off City Dock and gabbing about the long-anticipated dredging of Spa Creek.

Muck on the Annapolis seafloor began disappearing about four weeks ago - and the dredging was scheduled to be complete by today.

"The buzz, certainly in the sailing community, is that it is to enhance all of our efforts to bring seafaring events to Annapolis," said Lee Tawney, who works for Ocean Race Chesapeake, an organization that wants to bring prestigious sailboat races to Maryland.

The thinking goes like this: A deeper channel means bigger boats can sail up to the city, and people with bigger boats spend more money at port. Plus, the bigger boats tend to attract bigger crowds.

"It's gone very smoothly," said Bob Agee, the city administrator.

The dredging project focused on three bumps of silt along a 50-foot-wide channel from the Naval Academy to City Dock. The newly dredged channel will be 17 feet deep at mean low tide, allowing super-sized yachts to glide into Annapolis Harbor.

Seven such boats are scheduled to come to the city in the middle of April.

These yachts - known as the Volvo 70s - will make a much-anticipated stopover here before heading to New York and sailing the final leg of their around-the-world race.

When the Volvo boats, which draw more than 14 feet, glide up Spa Creek, the newly dredged areas will be marked by buoys, said Thomas G. Sprehe, a senior vice president at KCI Technologies, which has done much of the technical work.

However, Agee and others insist that the timing of the dredging and the Volvo stopover are coincidental.

Agee noted that the dredging plans were in the works far before the slick Volvo boats were designed. "The Volvo race will benefit from this," he said.

Still, federal permits are required for dredging projects, and Agee worked closely with Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin to fast-track approval so the work would be done by April.

"We knew we were working on a very tight time schedule," Cardin said. "It is extremely important for Annapolis, for the Volvo race and the economy."

The silt dredged from the seafloor will be exchanged for courser sands from routine dredging projects in the Chesapeake shipping lanes - and those materials will likely end up filling in eroded areas in Greenbury Point.

The project is costing the city between $500,000 and $600,000, Agee said. Some of these funds are being used for the Greenbury Point restoration project, and Agee is hoping to get some reimbursement from the federal government.

More muckraking

Eastport Yacht Club is doing some dredging of its own, according to Rick Brown, the club's commodore-elect.

"Our marina was falling apart and in dire need of repair," he said. "We had to do some work and expand."

The waters off Eastport Yacht Club used to be about 5 feet deep, but after the work is complete in April, parts of the harbor will be 7 feet deep. Also, the new, larger marina will include 47 slips for members.

"It seems that the consumers are buying larger boats," Brown said. "We're trying to have it done by the Volvo Ocean Race."

Housekeeping

Don't, don't, don't throw away that old salty Mount Gay Rum hat.

The new National Sailing Hall of Fame is planning to exhibit these gems in some form, and, by our estimation, contributing that old hat is the easiest way to get your name in the Hall of Fame.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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