Dredging issues in Baltimore Harbor

Take a look at the photo I included with this blog. You may ask, “Why is there a rock armored dike being built in the middle of Baltimore Harbor?” The answer is, to solve a problem.

Every year the Port of Baltimore needs to dredge about 500,000 cu. yds. of muck in order to maintain the operating depths of the channels. Add to this the dredging of the long-awaited 50’ berth at Seagirt Marine Terminal. The dredging is not the problem. It’s what to do with all the dredged material that has been a vexation for the port for years. The problem is the material dredged from Baltimore Harbor. It is layered with toxins from three centuries of commerce and industry. Maryland passed a law saying it must be “contained,” and cannot be taken to any of the other sites that receive dredged material from the shipping channels.

Dredge - Masonville

Photo Credit: Kathy Bergren Smith

After learning a tough lesson from the first containment site, an island in Baltimore County that residents fought against tooth and nail, the port got the message and created an advisory board made up of stakeholders and citizens to come up with a plan for a new site.

So here is one solution — the Masonville Cove Urban Wilderness Conservation Center and Dredge Material Containment Facility. On a site where the giant Maryland Drydock Co. shipyard once stood, there is now a dike designed to contain 140 acres of dredged material. Once it is topped off, the site will be paved over and become a marine terminal. Area residents had their say from the start and got a park and nature center with 54 cleaned up acres of wetland and a kayak pier on 70 acres of quiet cove.

Yes, we can now start the debating how much it costs. To which I ask: What price shall we pay to keep the port open, which has 16,000 direct jobs tied to it plus thousands more, to turn a community’s opposition into support and build a new terminal?

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About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

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