Relief for Hart-Miller Island Channel dredging: Bill ensures spoil disposal will end after state's latest effort is completed.


NEARLY A YEAR AGO, residents of southeast Baltimore County felt dismayed and betrayed when state officials announced they would dump an additional 30 million cubic yards of spoil dredged from Baltimore shipping channels on Hart-Miller Island.

The state had little choice. The Port of Baltimore's survival depends on scooping up 4 million cubic yards of muck annually so ships can navigate its channels. With no immediate site alternatives, the state had to return to Hart-Miller as a short-term answer.

Residents had good reason to be upset. Thirty years ago, they were told the dike surrounding the spoil containment cell would be 18 feet high. In 1988, state officials raised it to 28 feet and promised no more. Now, to accommodate additional spoil, the northern cell will rise to 44 feet. Residents reluctantly accepted this step.

What they have not accepted is the state returning in the future to Hart-Miller and failing to pursue other options for future spoil disposal. They feel they have borne their share of this unpopular burden. Moreover, for decades the plan has been to turn the island into a passive recreation site once disposal ends; letting the elevation increase would impair its recreational value.

Last week, the Maryland General Assembly enacted legislation to ensure that these residents don't get dumped on again. It bars future attempts to deposit spoil on Hart-Miller's now-closed south cell.

It adds that disposal in the northern cell must cease when the dike reaches 44 feet and sets a schedule for converting the island into the long-awaited park. The bill awaits, and deserves, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's signature.

The Maryland Port Administration supports the legislation because long-term spoil disposal sites are being readied. Mr. Glendening's strategic plan calls for, among other things, a disposal area on an artificial upper bay island that can handle to 100 million cubic yards of spoil.

The state is conducting feasibility studies on five potential locations and says it will prioritize them by the end of the year.

These efforts should be steady and unrelenting. The port's spoil must be dredged, and eventually Hart-Miller will cease to be a convenient place to put it.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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