The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering tearing down the Bloede Dam, a 230-foot-long, 30-foot-tall bridge across the Patapsco River.
Good for them. The sooner they do it, the better.
The Bloede Dam is the largest of four dams built in the Patapsco decades ago as power sources, all of which have outlived their usefulness. The state already has removed two of the dams upriver from Bloede, the Union and Simkins. Now, a preliminary report is recommending removing the Bloede, at a cost of $1.1 million.
While the power from Bloede is no longer needed (its hydroelectric power was discontinued in 1932), the dam's impact remains, and it is overwhelmingly negative.
For people using Patapsco Valley State Park, the dam represents a genuine safety hazard: Its cool, swirling waters are inviting to swimmers on hot summer days, despite the signs warning visitors to keep out. Four years ago, a 52-year-old man drowned in the river at the dam; it was only the latest of several drownings there over the years.
For fish, Bloede is also a hazard, as it blocks their natural migration route and ability to spawn. A fish ladder built about 15 years ago next to the dam has proven to be a largely ineffective solution, and ecologists agree that removing the dam would increase the shad and herring population in the river.
Finally, kayakers and canoeists say removing the dam would open more of the river for their recreational activities.
Dam removal was the preferred solution for Bloede presented in a recent report by DNR, and it won mostly support at a public meeting last week outlining the proposal. But the idea is not without some controversy. Besides being the largest of the Patapsco dams, Bloede is the oldest, built 105 years ago to provide electricity to Ellicott City and Catonsville. As such, it has undeniable historical significance.
That significance, however, pales next to Bloede's hazards. As Jim Palmer, an electrical engineer from Glenelg, told state officials at last week's meeting: "I don't see that it (Bloede) serves any purpose. It was a step in industrial development, but I think more historic are the shad and herring runs."