Debris from Conowingo Dam Litters Water, Beaches
Boaters advised to use caution on local waterways.
Charlie Klotzbucher no longer wonders how the recent opening of floodgates on the Conowingo Dam will affect the marina he manages.
Debris covers the beach at Podickory Point Yacht and Beach Club and bumps up against boats in their slips. Klotzbucher want to know how much is the cleanup going to cost and who’s going to pay for it?
He’s contacted the marina’s insurance company that, so far, has given him a verdict of “maybe.” He’s trying to hold off on the work until an insurance agent comes out to see the mess and assess the damage.
“I’m pushing to have them pay for my cleanup,” Klotzbucher said.
One local contractor has quoted a price of $5,000 to remove the marina’s share of the debris pile that lines the beach and extends along the waterfront of adjacent property owners. The trash includes shoes, bottles, crab floats, large logs and entire tree trunks. One trunk just off the shoreline measures more than 40 feet.
Recent rains from the stalled Tropical Storm Lee led the power company Exelon to open 43 of 53 floodgates on the hydroelectric dam that spans the Susquehanna River at the top of the bay near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. The action sent tons of debris backed up by the dam floating down the bay. Scientists are scrambling to assess the long-term impact on the ecosystem.
The debris is impacting many communities in the Broadneck area, including Lake Claire in Cape St. Claire.
Klotzbucher, who took over as marina manager at Podickory Point just after Isabel walloped the area in 2003, said the detritus that’s washed up is the worst he’s seen.
“We’re going to have to get a Bobcat in here,” he said.
The marina’s forklift has been largely idle this week as boat owners stay put and wait for the junk to settle or float out to sea.
Karl Pennell, owner of BetterBoats Detailing, has been advising his customers at local marinas to forgo this weekend and wait until next weekend to head back out on the Chesapeake.
“For everything you see on the surface, there’s twenty-fold beneath the surface,” Pennell said. Those who venture out too early are taking a chance, he said. “It could be a damaged prop, a bent shaft, structural damage. It could mean $10 or $15,000 in repairs for one trip.”
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources sent out an alert last week urging boaters to be cautious when navigating local waters.
To report floating debris, residents can call the Maryland Natural Resources Police at 877-224-7229 and select option 3. If the debris is of a hazardous nature, such as propane or fuel tanks, report it to Maryland Department of the Environment at 866-633-4686.