Cumberland Times-News

Latest news

June 6, 2013

Experts talk River Project

CUMBERLAND — Myths were dispelled and challenges revealed Thursday for about 120 attendees at the Allegany Museum when experts discussed the possibilities behind the proposed removal of the dam beneath the Cumberland-Ridgeley, W.Va., bridge.

Known as the River Project, removal of the dam would allow the North Branch of the Potomac River to return to its natural state in the hopes of opening the river for recreational use.

Hosted by Stuart Czapski of the Chamber of Commerce, the first guest speaker was William Atkinson, from the Maryland Department of Planning, who told the audience that opening the river would provide another tourism-related revenue source for the area.

“The Great Allegheny Passage has been a big success for the area. It provides around $3 million annually to Allegany County’s economy,” said Atkinson.

Serena McClain, from American Rivers, an organization in Washington that provides analysis and funding for river restorations, dispelled some key concerns while highlighting the project’s challenges.

The biggest concerns surround toxic chemicals and other harmful materials present in the sediment behind the dam and also the failure of anyone to step forward to take responsibility of its ownership.

“We did three core samples at different locations in the 1.7 mile impound zone behind the dam in 2010,” said McClain.

McClain said those samples were a red flag and a big concern for American Rivers.

She said it would cost around $700,000 to $800,000 to remove the dam. However, the dredging of toxins like base metals, dioxins and semi-organic compounds would put the project in the $5 to $10 million range, depending on the amount of removal required.

The toxic materials would have to be transported to a site in Pennsylvania that handles disposal of toxic waste.

The determination of ownership of the dam recently got a push forward when state Sen. George Edwards sent a letter to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler on June 3 asking for an opinion on the ownership of the dam.

A variety of concerns were quelled by McClain, such as the dam being a part of flood control.

“The dam was constructed in 1959 and is an industrial dam,” said McClain, adding it was constructed by the Army Corps. of Engineers during a time when many flood control projects in the region were being done, but the dam was not for flood control.

A myth was also dispelled by McClain that the dam and bridge were joined together and removing the dam would harm the structural integrity of the bridge.

“We found that dam and the bridge are basically constructed separately,” said McClain.

She said that removal of the dam would not jeopardize the bridge structure.

Many citizens at the event asked questions following the presentations by the speakers.

The biggest concern of the evening seem to center around the level of the river during the peak tourist months of summer.

“You say that removing the dam would not change the water level. I can walk across that river in the summer and it’s only ankle deep,” said one speaker, adding that the area of the river would not be good for kayaking and that the portion above the dam should be promoted instead.

The next step will be the study of the sediment behind the bridge through core samples. McClain said the cost would be around $75,000 with around $45,000 being secured already.  She said she hopes to have the full amount by public or private donations by the end of the summer.

Jim Thompson of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources spoke about fish migration. He showed slides of how rivers looked following other dam removal projects and the increase in fish populations that resulted.

“There is a push statewide to remove industrial dams and return the state’s rivers to their natural state ,” said Thompson.

McClain also said that an important step is to get a hydraulic analysis done to be sure of the effects that removing the dam will have on water flows and levels.

McClain said that water levels should remain the same after the dam removal and the river depth in the area would average about 3 feet.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

1
Text Only
Latest news
  • Puff & Stuff owners agree to settlement in federal court

    CUMBERLAND — The owners of Puff & Stuff stores in Cumberland and LaVale agreed to forfeit $173,988 to settle claims that they sold synethic drugs at their stores.

    April 23, 2014

  • Orndorff.jpg Hampshire man sentenced to 40 years plus in child death

    ROMNEY, W.Va. – Hampshire County Circuit Court Judge H. Charles Carl III sentenced Cory A. Orndorff, 23, of Green Spring on Wednesday to 40 years for one count of child abuse resulting in the death of an 18-month-old child

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wills Mountain wild fire 70 percent contained

    CENTERVILLE, Pa. — Fire on Wills Mountain that began Saturday reportedly covered more than 800 acres by Wednesday morning and was 70 percent contained, according to a public information officer with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.

    April 23, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
     

    April 23, 2014

  • West Virginia flags lowered for former congressman

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — State and U.S. flags at state facilities are at half-staff in honor of former Rep. Mick Staton.
    Staton died April 14. He was 74.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Truck catches fire on city bridge

    CUMBERLAND — Cumberland firefighters doused a pickup truck fire on the Baltimore Street bridge spanning Wills Creek about 11 a.m. Tuesday, but not before it destroyed the engine compartment and damaged the passenger area of the Chevrolet.

    April 22, 2014

  • Carbon monoxide causes evacuation at Ramada

    CUMBERLAND — High carbon monoxide readings at the Ramada Inn on George Street resulted in the evacuation of the first floor at midday Tuesday and caused a senior citizen prom to be moved elsewhere.

    April 22, 2014

  • picketing 2-1.jpg Workers begin picketing outside WV Schools for Deaf and Blind

    ROMNEY, W.Va. – Child care workers and union reps began picketing outside the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Tuesday morning.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Romney firefighters get federal grant

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — The Romney Fire Company will receive $67,925 in funding through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

    April 22, 2014

  • Sgt. Walter May.jpg Sgt. Walt May earns Award of Merit

    CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Natural Resources Police honored Sgt. Walt May of Westernport during its annual awards ceremony held last week at Chesapeake College.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Must Read
House Ads
NDN Video
NDN Video