Dredging in Baltimore Harbor
Ocean-going ships bound for Baltimore need depths up to fifty feet to stay afloat. This can be a challenge in the shallow Chesapeake, where sediments regularly settle into channels. Without constant dredging, all the channels approaching and within Baltimore Harbor would fill, and deep-draft ships would run aground. For many decades, it’s been important to keep those channels open. A maritime hub since Colonial times, the Port of Baltimore in 2008 moved approximately 33 million tons of freight cargo through its public and private marine terminals — cargo valued at more than $45 billion. The port produces $1.9 billion in business revenue annually and spins off about $400 million a year in state, county, and municipal tax revenues. All the jobs and revenue generated by the Port provide a powerful motivation to keep the shipping channels open.
To do this, every year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Port Administration oversee the dredging of some 4.5 million cubic yards of sediment. About 1.5 million cubic yards come from harbor channels inside the Patapsco. If that were concrete, those 1.5 million cubic yards could form an 8-foot wide, 4-inch thick driveway from Baltimore to San Francisco. Every year.
In 2008 the Maryland Port Administration engaged Maryland Sea Grant and the Chesapeake Research Consortium to organize and facilitate a review of the issues surrounding sediment quality in Baltimore Harbor. Each of these organizations has a long history of science management and technical expertise, and they in turn tapped top experts from around the country to form an Independent Technical Review Team. Comprised of seven scientists and engineers, the team brought extensive expertise in biogeochemistry, sediment contaminants, regulatory criteria, risk assessment, and port operations.
To read about the results and recommendations that came out of this review, download the full report or the summary brief listed below. (Multiple hard copies of the report are available for groups. Call 301.405.6376.)