Dredge project to start soon at St. Jerome Creek
Commissioners wanted the work done this summer
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.
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.