A 105-year-old historic dam straddling Howard and Baltimore counties could be gone by winter 2014.
The removal of the Bloede Dam was one of four potential plans presented by the Bloede Dam Alternatives Analysis Open House for the 230-foot-long, 30-foot-tall span across the Patapsco River.
Based on its analysis of the dam, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has recommended removing the dam with "passive sediment management."
Passive sediment management involves minimal excavation and would allow the sediment accumulated by the dam to settle naturally down the river.
Concerns about the dam's negative impact on the ecology of the river and issues of public safety prompted the call for some sort of action, according to information provided by the DNR.
The DNR recommendation would cost approximately $1.1 million and restore natural river function, create a resurgence of species more suited to a habitat of moving water, improve fish passage and increase recreational opportunities while reducing safety hazards, the study found.
A similar procedure was used to remove the Simkins Dam north of Bloede Dam in 2010.
Potential short-term problems could include the filling of pools downstream, impact on the organisms that live on the river bottom and reduced fishing opportunities, according to the DNR study.
Though the procedure "meets all the goals set out for the project," it's not certain that the park service will utilize this option, said Robin Melton, park manager of Patapsco Valley State Park.
"There's much more data to come in yet before the park service comes to a decision," Melton said.
A design plan for public comment will be available this winter and a contractor could be chosen by 2014, according to information from last week's community input meeting at Catonsville Library.
Another dam removal proposal involving active sediment management would provide similar benefits and disadvantages but would take longer and cost about $1.1 million more.
Active sediment management would involve trapping the sediment stuck behind the dam downstream.
Two other alternatives presented by the DNR would preserve the structure but prevent the ecological restoration of the habitat without addressing safety concerns.
Just repairing the dam would cost $880,000 and provide some safety improvements, a short-term reprieve from construction costs and reduce the risk of the dam's failure.
But the dam's fish ladder would only be 50 percent efficient and the dam would continue to obstruct migratory fishes in the river, who can't go upriver to spawn and lay eggs.
The fourth alternative is taking no action, but that would not improve the poor fish passage, degraded stream conditions and safety concerns that currently exist.
Though some contend the dam, which was built by Patapsco Electric Manufacturing Co. developer Victor Bloede to provide electricity to Ellicott City and Catonsville, has historical significance, most at the meeting June 28 at the library supported the DNR's recommendation.
Jim Palmer, an electrical engineer from Glenelg, said public safety and ecological concerns outweigh the historic aspects of the dam and justify its removal.
"I don't see that it serves any purpose," he said. "It was a step in industrial development, but I think more historic are the shad and herring runs."
Bloede Dam, the first to incorporate submerged internal turbines, had its hydroelectric power discontinued in 1932. It was sold to the state Board of Forestry six years later.
Towson resident Ken Lewis, a member of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, called the area around the dam a "fantastic environment.
"The dam is obstructing 64 miles of spawning habitat," Lewis said. "It's dangerous. It's got 'No trespassing' signs all over it. It's a public hazard."