The Baltimore Harbor Team, a group of dedicated volunteers, met on Thursday, September 15 to complete its mission. The Harbor Team made local headlines in Essex Middle River and surrounding areas while considering the possibility of a Hart-Miller Island – II dike for storing dredging spoils.
The team’s mission? To investigate sites around the Baltimore Harbor watershed where the next ‘dredged material containment facility’ (DMCF) could be located! The committee initially had 23 suggested sites. That number quickly dwindled to eleven (11), including the Hart-Miller Island – II proposal. In April 2011, before a standing room only audience, that proposal was quickly withdrawn. (The Hart-Miller Island II Dike Proposal Defeated)
MPA and the Harbor Team are moving forward with a plan to build a DMCF at Coke Point on property of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant, or land adjacent to the current RG Steel Plant in Dundalk, MD. Negotions for this option are ongoing. However, the committee was charged with finding a back-up site. That work has been difficult at best and contentious at its worst. Emotions often ran high on some proposals, as evidenced at the Back River Sewage Treatment Plant during April’s committee meeting.
Similar emotions were exhibited at the meeting on September 15 at George Fox Middle School in Pasadena as the Cox Creek and Millennium sites were considered. Have the residents of these neighborhoods been consulted? What was promised when the Cox Creek DMCF was built?
Rebecca Kolberg was adament about having separate studies done if the committee approves the Combined Cox Creek/Millennium Project to move forward. The two separate studies to be done must consider the Anne Arundel County property separate from the Baltimore City property. She justified her request by pointing out the difficulties in these two jurisdictions working together and both sides being equally represented, which has not happened when previous issues have arisen. Frank Hamons, Maryland Port Authority, has stated during several meetings that the agency has funding for only one study which could address the jurisdictional issues.
The final recommendation of the committee is that the MPA conduct a feasiblity study of constructing a DMCF on the combined Millennium property and the upland portion of Cox Creek while also raising the dike on the Cox Creek existing DMCF subject to the Cox Creek Dike Raising Stipulation. The recommendation also states: “Ensure no impacts to the Swan Creek wetland area and no impacts to Baltimore City’s Ft. Armstead Park.”
The committee also gave approval to investigate the feasibility of using Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) for dredged material disposal. This “plan” must assess the short and long term environmental impact as well as the effectiveness of various engineering controls required in minimizing the environmental impacts of this technique.
And yet, the MPA only has authorization for one study! Is there money for a study of the Combined Cox Creek/Millennium option and the pilot test of the CAD option?
“The report will be prepared for submission to the Maryland Port Authority (MPA) administration for their consideration,” said Chris Correales, Harbor Team Facilitator as the committee approved its final recommendations.
In a phone interview with Bill Pribyl, Advocate of Bear Creek on the Harbor Team, on Friday morning (9/17) — Pribyl stated, “I am upset and angry. I asked for clarification last month and was shut down. I tried to get clarification last night and was unsuccessful. My understanding is there would only be one study. Now it appears there will be at least two options going forward along with the Reuse option which is already being funded!”
This reporter also came away from the meeting confused on what is the next step! The report will go to the MPA Administration. What will they be able to consider? And which option will they approve for study? The Combined Cox Creek/Millennium Proposal? If so, what happens to the other options, especially the recommendation for the CAD Pilot Test? What happens if the CAD Pilot Test is funded for study… does the other options die? What if the CAD project is unsuccessful… are we back to square one without funding to proceed to another option?
The committee’s report will be reviewed for approval by the MPA Administration before it is submitted to the Governor and the Maryland State Legislature for further analysis, funding and approvals.