Bay Debris Cleanup Ongoing From Summer Storms

Bay Journal article (2018-12-05) reported on the ongoing cleanup of debris and trash that flooded into the Chesapeake Bay from summer storms that occurred back in July. Debris poses not only a navigation and safety threat to boats but can foul restoration efforts undertaken by the State and local governments.

According the article, 2018 is on track to be one of the wettest years ever record in the mid-Atlantic region, with Baltimore City receiving 59 inches of rain as of November 5. There have only been two years since 1871 that have seen more rainfall and there is still several weeks remaining in this year.

Heavy rainfalls send trash and debris into the Bay and its tributaries from stormwater runoff channels, streams, and shorelines. A large amount of debris and sediment was also released when the Conowingo Dam had to open its floodgates to relieve pressure from the storms. This has created a large and ongoing effort to remove the debris. From the article:

As of Sept. 27, [Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)] crews had removed 140,680 pounds of storm-related debris from navigable waters in the Bay. But the work was far from done. [DNR Hydrographic Operations Chief John] Gallagher said he expects the cleanup to continue, after a winter intermission, well into 2019.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has pitched in, but its boats largely concentrate on the federally maintained channels immediately around the Port of Baltimore and District of Columbia. That leaves the DNR with the balance of the Bay’s navigable Maryland waters as well as many of its many tributaries.

The article described how debris can pose a threat to boats and water navigation. However, debris can also clog natural shorelines, stream restoration projects, and other similar water quality projects undertaken by county governments. The article also explained how DNR uses a “triage” process when determining what debris is removed and how that debris is disposed of.