|5:27 PM EDT||
Wayne Gilchrest, R-MD 1st
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would decrease the Corps of Engineers' operations and maintenance account by $6,801,000 for the Tolchester S-turn straightening project in my district.
Mr. Chairman, similar to the amendment that we debated just a few minutes ago, this particular project, this straightening of a natural channel, would cost the taxpayers $13 million. Now, as the Corps has run through its process to analyze the cost benefit to the taxpayers in this country, this particular project in the First Congressional District of Maryland dealing with the Tolchester Channel does not meet the Corps' own justification to do. The Corps of Engineers has not met the threshold
to benefit the taxpayers in the United States.
So my colleagues have come to Congress to get this project, I guess I would say, pushed through. This project, the Tolchester S-turn, does not meet the cost-benefit analysis to benefit the taxpayers anywhere, including Baltimore City. The project, therefore, is not necessary.
Let us take a look at the environmental impact of this particular project. The channel right now is a natural channel. It is the old Susquehanna Riverbed that flows from Pennsylvania out to the Chesapeake Bay. This is a natural-flowing channel. There is a natural scouring in this particular area, so very little dredging is necessary. If we straighten the Tolchester Channel, the likelihood of an increased cost for dredging is there.
Now, when the channel is straightened, it will change the direction of the flow of water. And when the direction of the flow of water is changed, great damage will be done to one of the largest oyster bars in the Chesapeake Bay. This oyster bar just off Tolchester is 300 acres, and it is a very active site.
When one changes the flow of the water, one will slow the water down over the oyster bed. That means it will silt up. Now, if one straightens the channel and ships can flow faster through this channel, which they will do, one will increase the wake. When one increases the wake, one will do several things.
One, it will cause more erosion on the shore. It has already caused significant damage to people's property, whether it is a garage, cars, docks, you name it. But the third thing, which is really a safety hazard, the wake will increase the danger of children playing on the beach that have already found it difficult to play on the beach. When one of the ships goes by, these young people could be washed into the Chesapeake Bay and potentially drown.
Now, the question will arise that we are dredging this new channel for safety purposes that has been asked for by the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers. When that issue comes up, let me say this, I had a direct face-to-face conversation with the Corps of Engineers, the District Engineer in the City of Baltimore. I asked them that question: Does this rise to the threshold of a safety hazard for shipping through the Tolchester Channel. The answer, Mr. Chairman, was no, it does not rise to a safety
hazard through the Tolchester Channel.
The only reason we are dredging the Tolchester Channel is because we are dredging the whole northern route, the Brewerton Extension, the Tolchester Channel, the C&D Canal.
We have already talked about the C&D Canal, and we know that is not necessary to dredge. So if it is not necessary to dredge the northern route, if it is not a safety hazard, which the Corps of Engineers in Baltimore said it is not a safety hazard, and the Coast Guard if you ask them direct, the Coast Guard will say that the Tolchester S-turn, since over 6,000 ships have passed through there in the last 6 years with no incident, that the Tolchester S-turn does not rise to the level of a safety
hazard with their office. [Page: H5233]
Now, can one make it safer? Sure. Can one dredge the Tolchester S-turn and make it a straight channel? Sure. Would it be safer if it were straight? Sure. But what damage will be done if one does that if it is not a safety hazard? The damage that will be done as a result of that S-turn is great.
I ask my colleagues to support my amendment.