Deep-Six Site 104 Now

The plan to dump dredge spoils in Chesapeake Bay is losing ground.

For too long, this ill-considered scheme has wasted minds and memos that should have been catching up with Bay restoration at a time when every sign tells us that redoubled efforts are needed.

Instead, the state of Maryland has been insisting on a plan to dump 18 million cubic yards of bottom muck from Baltimore Harbor into the open Chesapeake Bay just northeast of the Bay Bridge at a location called Site 104.

The state justified the dumping with studies by the Army Corps of Engineers that minimize the damage. Other federal agencies disagree. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both of whom we trust far more than the Corps, say it's a bad idea. This week, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee agreed, directing the Corps to "exhaust the space in other dredge disposal sites before using Site 104."

Improving Baltimore shipping is laudable. But how can you explain a trade-off that dumps two million pounds of nitrogen pollution into the Bay when you've admitted that the war on these Bay-choking nutrients is being lost? What does that say to homeowners and gardeners who have cut down on nitrogen fertilizer - or stopped using it altogether - to do their part?

How can a plan that buries over-wintering blue crabs and damages the habitat for oysters and fish have gotten this far? What about the crab shortage that is driving watermen out of business and all the money we're spending to bring back oysters?

Gov. Parris Glendening has an enviable record on the environment and Smart Growth. But on Site 104, what could he be thinking?

We applaud U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in sounding alarms. Unlike others, he is not playing footsies with the Army Corps, a legendary development agency heedless of environmental concerns. "I can not adequately express my surprise and disappointment that [your report] contained no acknowledgment that disposing of this material at S104 would be a significant new source of nutrients," he wrote to the Corps last week.

Gilchrest, who mobilized the Appropriations Committee, is a Republican in the Teddy Roosevelt mold who recognizes the value of conservation. Other Republicans in the Big Business, lip-service-to-the-environment mold ought to take note of Gilchrest's independence and popularity.

Listening to Gilchrest, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and to us might also help Glendening, a Democrat, recover his senses in time to dump this clunker of a plan before all of us waste more of our valuable time.

| Issue 29 |

Volume VII Number 29
July 22-28, 1999
New Bay Times

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