Major Dredging Planned for Baltimore County’s Upper Bird River

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An aerial view of Middle River, via Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons.

For the second time in 15 years, Baltimore County plans to dig up massive amounts of muck from the floors of the Bird River and Railroad Creek in Middle River.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz made the announcement while visiting a section of the river yesterday with Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins.

“This is a project that everyone is certainly looking forward to, especially at the upper reaches of the river to allow people to get their boats out,” said Bevins in a statement Thursday.

What’s keeping people from getting their boats out on the water is built-up silt that has narrowed the channels of both waterways. According to the county, a 2015 survey found upstream sections of both the river and the creek had filled in by two feet or more compared to the intended design depth of the channel.

To fix this, agencies will shell out an estimated $4.5 million to dig up 50,000 cubic yards of material – nearly 53,000 tons’ worth of wet soil – from a 25,650-stretch of the river and creek. That’s a lot of silt.

Luckily, the county says it has a place to store it. Officials said crews will deposit the muck at a dredge material containment facility off of nearby Bowerman Lane in White Marsh.

Members of the Bird River Restoration Committee, an advocacy organization for dwellers in the Bird River Watershed, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. The organization’s website attributes the rapid buildup of silt over the last 15 years in part to unchecked mud pollution from construction sites and poorly managed stormwater collection ponds.

The county will cover about $2.5 million of the cost, with the rest coming from Maryland Department of Natural Resources grants for which the county has successfully applied. The dredging wouldn’t begin for another two years from the beginning of planning in fiscal 2018.

Baltimore County last paid for this type of work in 2002, when the government sent a barge in to widen the same areas at a cost of $1.3 million, according to a December 2002 story from the Sun.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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