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CA approves staging areas for dredging lakes

The Baltimore Sun

Lake Kittamaqundi in Town Center and Lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown are one step closer to a long-awaited dredging after the Columbia Association board of directors settled on two locations to stage the work.

The board voted, 6 to 4, on Thursday to use an area near South Entrance Road along the southern tip of Lake Kittamaqundi for equipment, temporary storage and drying of the dredged material and access for trucks to haul the sediment away. It voted, 7 to 3, to stage the Lake Elkhorn dredging in a parking lot area near the Elkhorn Dam.

The board had approved $11 million for the two dredging projects, but every staging choice comes with an additional price tag, said Maggie J. Brown, president of the Columbia Association. The two sites the board chose will require $1 million more.

When the staging funding is approved, the association can start applying for permits from as many as a dozen federal, state and county agencies. The board made dredging a priority this year after about five years of discussing the issue and then putting it off.

The Columbia Association plans to vacuum out an estimated 170,000 cubic yards of sediment with pumps on a floating platform -- a process called hydraulic dredging -- send it through a pipe to the staging site, use machines to dry it, and then truck it to other states.

If the sediment is left in the lakes, the water quality and fish habitats will decline, and they will eventually fill up and turn into marshland. Already, Lake Kittamaqundi, which was dredged in the 1980s, and Lake Elkhorn, which has never been dredged, are filling with algae and plants.

Nearly two dozen residents of the waterfront community on Vantage Point Road attended the meeting Thursday, and several made heartfelt pleas to avoid using their community for Lake Kittamaqundi staging. No board member proposed that location.

Instead, the board argued the merits of a site near South Entrance Road -- where residents of an apartment building would experience some noise and traffic effects -- compared with a section of property owned by General Growth Properties next to the parking lots used for Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The GGP location would have cost $700,000 more because it requires pumping the sediment through pipes to an area about 4,000 feet from the lake. Most board members felt the savings gained by using the South Entrance Road location outweighed a manageable impact on residents.

As the clock passed midnight, the board voted for a more expensive plan -- by about $1.2 million -- to use the site near Elkhorn Dam rather than the alternate site at Hopewell Park for Lake Elkhorn staging.

Earlier in the evening, community members from Hopewell expressed concerns about trucks entering and exiting where children play, increased noise and possible dangers of having the dredged material close to their homes.

"It has gotten me emotional as I've been sitting back there listening," said Carolyn Cosentino, a resident of the Hopewell neighborhood. "Your job ... is to keep people safe," she told the board. "Putting gunk in our yards, that's not safe."

A proposal to use some of the dredged material to level a field at Hopewell Park and cover it with topsoil was rejected.

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