Dredge pro­ject to start soon at St. Jerome Creek

Com­mis­sion­ers wanted the work done this sum­mer

The Enterprise - - News - By JA­SON BABCOCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Ja­sonEn­tNews

The hope was to get the nar­row chan­nel of the sprawl­ing St. Jerome Creek dredged at the start of this year’s boat­ing sea­son, but work should start this month in­stead.

The Mary­land Board of Pub­lic Works ap­proved the pro­ject at its Wed­nes­day meet­ing in An­napo­lis. Bud­geted at $180,000, St. Mary’s County gov­ern­ment is con­tribut­ing $50,000 to­ward the pro­ject, which would dredge a 50-foot-wide chan­nel at a depth of 6 feet.

The Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources de­ter­mined that the chan­nel had nar­rowed to 20 feet wide and to 4.2 feet deep at low tide, mak­ing it tricky for com­mer­cial boats to get in and out of the creek and into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Though it is a fed­eral chan­nel, the state and county are foot­ing the bill for the dredg­ing. The U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers had pro­posed two long jet­ties to pre­vent fur­ther shoal­ing at the mouth of the creek, but that work was es­ti­mated to cost $18 mil­lion, said Zane Rettstatt, en­gi­neer with the St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and Trans­porta­tion. The corps of en­gi­neers is look­ing at al­ter­na­tives that would cost less than $10 mil­lion, he said.

With the dredg­ing pro­ject ap­proved, Rettstatt said a con- trac­tor is al­ready on standby and St. Mary’s County gov­ern­ment can award the job im­me­di­ately. The con­trac­tor can start the dredg­ing next week or the week af­ter, but of­fi­cials also have to watch to see the track that Hur­ri­cane Irma takes. If the hur­ri­cane comes up the East Coast, that could de­lay the lo­cal dredg­ing work.

“With the dredg­ing, all it takes is one good storm to knock out ev­ery­thing you’ve done,” Rettstatt said.

St. Mary’s County Com­mis­sioner Tom Jar­boe (R) said last month that he was frus­trated that the work at St. Jerome Creek was still not started.

With in­volve­ment from the fed­eral, state and county gov­ern­ments, “it’s a shared ef­fort. That’s a good thing when it comes to cost. It’s a ter­ri­ble thing when it comes to the bu­reau­cracy,” he said.

Jar­boe noted that the sum­mer crab­bing sea­son is draw­ing to a close, and it’s now prime hur­ri­cane sea­son. “We can only hope that it doesn’t fill back in be­fore sum­mer comes back and the wa­ter­men can truly use it,” he said.

Rettstatt said this week it was the hope and the in­tent to get the dredg­ing done at the start of the sum­mer, but there are a lot of per­mits and pro­cesses to go through.

“It was no one’s fault,” he said. “It takes time, but we kept work­ing through it.”

Once the dredg­ing work starts, it should take seven to 10 days to com­plete, de­pend­ing on the weather con­di­tions, he said.

But with Hur­ri­cane Irma loom­ing in the At­lantic Ocean, “that could put a hold on things, too,” he said.

St. Jerome Creek was last dredged in 2006, and be­fore that, in 1991.

IM­AGE COUR­TESY OF ST. MARY’S COUNTY GOV­ERN­MENT

The St. Mary’s County com­mis­sion­ers funded $50,000 to­ward a $180,000 dredg­ing pro­ject for St. Jerome Creek in Ridge. Work is sup­posed to start this month.

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