Vol. 9, No. 7
Feb. 15-21, 2001
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For Site 104 Dump, A Happy Ending Pending

In your responses to Bay Weekly's Best of the Bay Survey, we have noticed how many of you remain upset about the state's ill-fated plans to dump dredge from the bottom of Baltimore Harbor in the open waters of Chesapeake Bay.

Gov. Parris Glendening backed away from the so-called Site 104 dumping plan after a storm of criticism. Dumping millions of cubic yards of contaminated muck would have damaged the water quality near Kent Island and threatened oysters - that can't get up and leave when pollution comes their way - and other aquatic life.

Even though Glendening dropped his plan, it left the state without a solution for disposing of the Maryland Port Administration's wastes. The next governor might be less receptive to conservationist thinking or might have his or her bread too buttered by monied interests to say no.

It looks now that after negotiations, a compromise is in the wind that will never permit this dumping to occur.

Any day now, legislation is expected to be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly prescribing methods for disposing of Baltimore's harbor muck in ways that not only avoid environmental harm but contribute to preservation. It would allow the mud and silt to be used to build up the Bay's vanishing islands - Poplar Island, on the Eastern Shore off Tilghman Island, and Hart-Miller Island, on the Baltimore County shoreline. Only Pooles Island off Harford County would remain as an open dump site until a long-running agreement expires.

With both the Poplar Island and Hart-Miller Island restoration projects protected by dikes, the chance of problems are diminished. Nonetheless, we want the environmental lawyers and state officials who made the deal to develop methods of monitoring these projects to make sure that the dikes hold and oysters don't suffocate. Visiting the edges of the Poplar Island project by boat, we've seen muddied water. In photos taken by aircraft, we've seen mud plumes fanning out from the site.

We want to hear more details of the plan set forth in public hearings, and we hope that General Assembly members in our region support it.

The agreement is a testament to the benefits of government and citizens working together, cooperation that will be all the more needed - in all the more places - with an administration in Washington not automatically friendly to the Bay.

The happy ending, albeit tentative at this point, shows the rewards to citizens who pool their outrage against unwise decisions by powerful people.

Margaret Mead put it this way: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly