County allots $4.5 million to dredging of Bird River
At the scenic Middle River home of residents Janet and Pete Terry, Baltimore County Executive and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D6) announced a $4.5 million dredging project to benefit Bird River and Railroad Creek.
Kamenetz explained that the initiative will support recreational boating while improving navigation and safety along the county’s waterfronts.
The project is expected to remove 50,000 cubic yards
of materials covering more than 25,000 linear feet along the channel.
The upper ridges of Bird River were chosen for the dredging after research showed that Bird River had become silted in from sedimentation of the river, resulting in reduced channel depth.
“It makes it challenging for people to actually get their boats out or even back to shore,” said Kamenetz.
Partial funding of the multi-million-dollar plan will be provided through grants by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Waterway Improvement Fund. The County will fund 55% of the project cost with the remaining 45% coming from the State grants.
“This project is going to take a couple years, it’s not like we can just haul that little scooper out and somehow get that done,” said Kamenetz.
Vince Gardina, the director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, said these areas were chosen because of the physical property and the abundance of the sedi- ment that has built up along the shoreline. The sediment and the sand in the area is loose and fine so the dredged channels collapse on each other and build up again. Tides and storms also add on more layers of sediment and undo any previous dredging.
“You have run off from farms, you have run off from the watershed which itself is very urbanized,” he said, speaking about the watershed upstream from Bird River that includes Perry Hall, White Marsh, and Parkville. The run-off from these development-heavy neighborhoods ends up leaking downward into the river. He added that once the actual dredging gets started, it will take 2-3 years to complete. The dredged materials will then be taken to an upstream containment facility and landfill.
“The effects from mining, farming, and especially development, are the largest sources of pollution that are entering our rivers and our Bay,” said Janet Perry, who had lived on the Bird River waterfront her entire life. “In my lifetime, this was a river that was vibrant, that was skiable, we could take a boat from one end to another. In my lifetime, now that’s no longer possible.”
“One of the criteria in the past from the DNR has been that we had to stabilize the run-off from upstream and we’ve been very successful in doing that. It’s been reduced but not eliminated,” Gardina said.
The effects of the watershed have been reduced due to a combination of stormwater remediation efforts, such as the planting of rain gardens and the implementation of rain barrels. Gardina also said that every new development project has to have some form a sediment control at their construction site.
Perry said that even small, individual efforts like picking up trash and working with your fellow community members can make a large-scale impact.
“When we all come together and we all do a little bit, we get a lot of accomplished,” she said.
The plan will begin with several community outreach initiatives. In the upcoming year, Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) will conduct a meeting to discuss the project. At that time waterfront property owners may elect to have a spur channel dredged from the County’s main channel to their individual pier or boat ramp at their own expense. EPS said they will provide assistance with spur design, permitting and construction. Residents who are interested will be offered 10-year interest-free loans in qualified.
At the announcement were representatives from several community organizations, like the EssexMiddle River Civic Council and the Bird River and Back Restoration Committees. Perry said this shows how all the affected communities are working together to better their waterfront.
Kamenetz said that Bevins had been asking him to explore the dredging issues for years.
“The healthier this river is, the healthier that Gunpowder’s going to be, which leads all the way to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Bevins.
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, and Pete Terry.
Kamenetz discusses the dredging project with representatives from several community associations.
Janet Perry discusses growing up along the Bird River shorelines and how the sediment build-up has affected residents.