House panel rejects dredging bill

A bill that would have blocked the state from placing an island of dredge spoil off the Pasadena shoreline failed yesterday in the House Environmental Matters Committee, leaving the island's opponents to put their hopes on its Senate bill companion.

House Bill 402 would have prohibited dumping dredge spoil within five miles of an already-approved Cox Creek disposal site - effectively keeping the so-called Site 170, off Bodkin Point near the mouth of the Patapsco River, off a list of sites that the Maryland Port Administration is studying for a 1.5-mile-long dredge island.


"It's a big disappointment," said Del. Mary M. Rosso, a Democrat whose District 31 includes Pasadena.

Rosso, the bill's sponsor, modeled the measure after a law that largely prohibits the disposal of dredge spoil in any contained area within five miles of Hart-Miller Island, which has become a recreational haven in Baltimore County.


Some Pasadena residents supported the legislation out of fear that an island holding 40 million to 80 million cubic yards of dredge spoil could harm fish and wildlife, contaminate well water and increase the risk of flooding.

"At least people now know where Site 170 is, know that people live close to it and that there would be problems placing a site for dredge disposal so close to where people live," said Rebecca Kolberg, co-chairwoman of Citizens Against the Pasadena Dredge Island.

The port administration opposed the bill, wanting to keep open all 24 of its dredge spoil placement options - eight possible upper-bay islands and 16 other uses for the dredge spoil.

The list of sites will be narrowed after they are studied. Chesapeake Bay dredging is deemed necessary to ensure waterways are deep enough for commercial shipping.

"The Maryland Port Administration cannot support any bills that are site-specific," said Kate Philips, an agency spokeswoman.

But the Pasadena dredge island opponents have a chance in Senate Bill 480 - the companion measure sponsored by state Sen. Philip J. Jimeno, also a District 31 Democrat.

It is awaiting a vote in the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee.

"Certainly the 170 site is the priority for the community," Rosso said. "We'll still fight for it no matter what, no matter whose bill it is."


The island's opponents had better success this month with another measure - House Bill 527, which would set up a citizens oversight committee monitoring redepositing of dredge spoil in Cox Creek and direct it to respond to complaints about the site.

"That is a very important bill," Kolberg said of the measure, which awaits action in the Senate. "The port should be doing things like that from the very beginning."

Kolberg said the group's efforts aren't done.

It has been leading the Pasadena residents' campaign against Site 170 since the fall and gathered about 1,900 signatures to support its cause.

The efforts have gained support from the District 31 delegation, whose members asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari to take the site off the list.

The County Council also voted unanimously to support the two House bills.


"We'll fight for 100 years if we have to; they're not going to get an island at Site 170," Kolberg said. "They're going to see legislation from now until eternity."