Local marinas and their boaters are already tired of dealing with the debris flowing south in the Chesapeake after the Conowingo Dam opened flood gates to relieve pressure from this summer’s record rainfall.
On Thursday, seven to 10 gates of the dam are scheduled to be opened again to relieve pressure from the remnants of Hurricane Florence.
Some 200,000 cubic feet of water per second are expected to flow through the dam Thursday night.
Aside from the potential environmental damage wrought by the influx of silt-laden fresh water from the Susquehanna River, above the dam the debris is a hazard for boats on the water and a frustrating chore for marinas along the bay and its tributaries.
Frank Carver, captain of Loosen Up charters out of Deale, said he had not seen a lot of detritus floating in the past few days but saw a lot accumulating around Thomas Point Wednesday.
“But two months ago, that was the worst I have ever seen in my 50 years on the bay,” he said. His charter company usually takes two trips a day, shoving off before dawn and again after lunch. At the end of July he had to cancel fully booked trips.
“I lost four days, four whole days, because it was so bad,” Carver said. “It has been kind of crazy.”
Up at Ventnor Marina on Bodkin Creek in Pasadena, manager Sheila Svitil was not happy more debris was on the way.
“It’s been terrible. We’ve had tons of logs and driftwood. And we are back in the Bodkin,” she said.
She said about 10 of the boats kept at the marina had suffered some damage while underway in nearby waters. “Last week one of our charter captains up from Shady Side said he had to go real slow because of all the stuff out there.”
She said debris collected all along the bulkhead wall of the marina and they had to use nets to pick it all up. “And we had some big stuff in here too.”
At Podickory Point Marina and Beach Club, on the Broadneck Peninsula near Sandy Point State Park, general manager Joe Pomerantz had to clear a path through the overnight collection of debris on his beach for a Virginia couple to launch their 17-foot Hobie Cat catamaran.
By the time they returned from their abbreviated sail four hours later, he had to rake it all over again.
“It seems it has been all season,” he said. “It’s frustrating. We are on our third 30-yard rollup (bin) now. And more is showing up as we speak.”
The debris has even found its way into the well protected marina area. “Debris piled up between the boats and our bulkhead. We had to make a chain link scoop on the end of a forklift to get most of it out.”
Will Duvall, who keeps his 23-foot Sea Hunt walk-around on one of Podickory’s lift-slips, said it’s been bad.
“I had a refrigerator door under my boat, stuck on the lift,” he said. “It was crazy.”
He also had a four-foot stump about 20-inches thick under the boat too.
Other than that incident, he has had to take a piece of wood to move smaller bits of wood before he sets the boat down in the water.
The Hobie Cat couple, Tom and Sara Helmke, decided to take advantage of the sunny day Wednesday for a cruise in the bay. “We had not been out in a few weeks because of the weather,” Tom Helmke said. “Like my wife said, if you can dodge a log you can sail a boat.”
He saw a lot of debris in the water as they sailed across the bay. “The line of debris near Kent Island was too much. We ended up cutting our cruise short.”
He said described the line of debris, gathered by currents and tides, as about 100 feet wide and comprised of logs, wood, tires and plastics.
“When we got back to the western shore at Podickory it was like Joe had never raked it,” Helmke said.
John Gallagher, director for the Department of Natural Resources Hydrographic Operations division, usually spends time with his boats tending to the bay’s buoys or dealing with abandoned boats. But since the third week in July his largest boat has been clearing dam detritus, mostly from areas of the bay and its tributaries where debris causes a navigation hazard.
“It’s a 36-foot aluminum landing craft with a service crane. If the crane can’t lift a tree we chain saw it to smaller pieces,” he said. Once full with roughly 5,000 pound worth of junk, the landing craft returns to its home at Matapeake on Kent Island. “It’s not all logs, there’s tires, hot water heaters, all kinds of stuff.”
He said one of the worst hit areas was Lake Ogleton outside Annapolis. After the large dam release, 22 of 50 gates opened, at the end of July, he said his crews took about 20,000 pounds of debris out that area.
They also spent time around Mayo, Bay Ridge Beach, and the mouth of the Severn and South rivers.
“Yesterday we hauled a 80-foot tree off a man’s dock near Bodkin Point,” Gallagher said. “And we have five or six calls from around there and Rock Creek today.”
And more is coming.
“It just continues to show up. It’s not over yet,” Pomerantz said.