Determined to get county waterway dredging back on track, County Executive Steve Schuh announced his upcoming budget will earmark $1.5 million over the next three years for those improvements.
At a gathering Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a $1.12 million dredging project recently completed in Deale's Rockhold Creek, the county executive noted his determination to make the county's waterways more accessible to its citizens, including dredging creeks and other water resources.
"Our waterways are the lifeblood of south county," said Schuh. "Our enhanced dredging program will ensure our wetlands remain vibrant and our marina businesses flourish."
Hosted by south county marina owner Steuart Chaney, the short ceremony brought representatives of most of the stakeholders to Chaney's Shipwright Harbor Marina. Those in attendance included marina and marine business owners, engineers, boaters and dredging companies.
"There are 18 commercial marinas here, who would think that," Chaney said. "And some 50 commercial businesses that without deep water would be non-existent, along with thousands of jobs."
Schuh noted the dredging project to keep the channel open in Deale was probably as large as all the other county projects combined.
The Rockhold project dredged 5,700 linear feet of channel and removed over 15,000 cubic yards of silt and muck from the creeks.
The county dredging program depends heavily on state coffers. Maryland's Waterway Improvement Fund administered through the Department of Natural Resources consists of money collected from the excise tax on boat purchases.
The DNR makes matching grants, usually 50-50, to the county for dredging projects.
If the economy tanks like it did in 2007-08, less boats are purchased and the fund wanes.
The county's program really floundered during the budgetary low tide that followed.
In 2007 Anne Arundel received $3.5 million in state funds for its waterway improvement projects. The next year that was cut to $1.8 million. And in 2010 the county got a mere $500,000.
With a steadier economy, more money is forthcoming that the county matches roughly dollar for dollar for dredging projects.
In 2017 two creeks will get cleaned out. Parkers Creek in Deale will benefit from a $517,000 dredge. And Cockey Creek, a tributary on the north shore of the Magothy River, will get a dredging to the tune of about $198,000.
Next season three projects are in line for work if the money, included in the budget just passed by the legislature, is made available by DNR in July.
Dredging in Carrs Creek, also in Deale, and Broadwater Creek, the next creek north of Carrs but in Churchton, are due to be cleansed next year. The County Council must also approve the matching funds for the work, which will be included in the budget submitted May 1.
Another project in the Waterways Improvement lineup due for work in the coming year is a public boat ramp at Discovery Village on Parrish Creek in Shady Side. It, too, needs final funding.
County spokesman Owen McEvoy said the county will be requesting $1.1 million in county bonds to leverage the anticipated state grants for Broadwater and Carrs creeks.