Bloede dam

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering removing the Bloede dam on the Patapsco River. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / June 20, 2012)

The body of a swimmer missing since Sunday night in Patapsco Valley State Park was found Monday in the turbulent waters of the Patapsco River just below the Bloede Dam, a spokesman for Maryland Natural Resources Police said.

The body of Arturo Acosta-Acero, 33, of Elkridge was found shortly after 2 p.m. by a Baltimore County Fire Department search-and-rescue crew, according to Sgt. Brian K. Albert of the Natural Resources Police. He said the body was found in churning water in the middle of the river.

Earlier reports said Acosta-Acero went into the water above the dam, but Albert on Tuesday morning said there was a misunderstanding with witnesses, who spoke only Spanish, and it now appears that he was swimming some 30 to 40 yards below the dam when he disappeared on Sunday. Acosta-Acero was at the park with friends, Albert said. He was reported missing about 8:30 p.m.

The body was to be taken to the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Albert said, and the investigation is open until the autopsy report is completed. An autopsy is expected to be performed on Tuesday.

The historic concrete hydroelectric dam, shut down in the 1930s, has long been considered a safety hazard, and is marked with warning signs.

A DNR official said last year that four or five people had died at the dam in the past two decades. In this case, however, it's not clear what role, if any, the dam played in the accident.

"It's hard to say it wasn't a contributing factor, but I wouldn't say we have conclusive evidence that it is," Albert said. He said it's possible the water current above the dam played a role in the accident.

Built in 1906 for the Patapsco Electric and Manufacturing Co., the dam has been designated for demolition by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which owns it. Over the last three years, the state has removed two of four historic dams along the Patapsco to clear the way for fish swimming to upstream spawning areas.

Bloede is the largest of the four, at 230 feet across and about 30 feet high at the spillway, and the farthest downriver, meaning it's the first obstacle fish encounter as they head upriver.

Removing the Bloede is key to boosting the Patapsco's fish population, said Serena McClain, associate director of the river restoration program at American Rivers, a national organization working with the state and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the Bloede project.

"We're never going to see those big benefits for migratory fish until the Bloede's gone," McClain said, adding that NOAA has approved a $3.5 million grant to remove the Bloede.

Tony Redman, director of the DNR project review unit, said the agency and its collaborators in the effort decided in March that taking the dam down would be the best way to improve fish passage. A public comment period yielded about 80 written responses, all but five or six supporting taking the entire dam down.

He said the DNR is now studying how best to remove the concrete dam, a project complicated by the fact that there's a Baltimore County sewer line above ground next to the dam.

He estimated the project could cost $3.5 million, including the price of displays to mark the dam's historic significance, and said he hoped the work would begin by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com