Dredging Needed for Hooper's Island Waterways Faces Deep-Rooted Issues
HOOPER'S ISLAND, Md.- With wooden pole in hand, waterman Tommy Palley shows a deep-rooted problem in the waterways surrounding Hooper's Island.
"At the most, this probably isn't even a foot and a half," Palley said holding the pole in the water.
Underneath the blue-green waters of Tar Bay, shoaled land has been slowly taking over for more than ten years, damaging boats and leaving watermen wondering if the channel in and around Fishing Creek will ever be dredged.
Watermen like Palley say the blocked channel makes it hard for them to do their jobs, especially with crab season now underway. Sometimes, the only help they get is warning signs reading "DANGER," marking the shallow parts of the water. Other times, they're forced to take the longer route around, adding at least an hour to their journey back home.
Left to fend for themselves, Palley says they now depend on stakes, placed beforehand, to navigate the waters.
Meanwhile, inside the Church Creek Fire Department on Wednesday, Palley and other watermen voiced their concerns in front of lawmakers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Army Corps of Engineers.
Congressman Andy Harris-R says getting the funding for the dredging project is difficult. The money, he says, often dries up with projects higher on the priority list. This year, he hopes that changes.
"This is urgent and it's been put off far too long," Harris said.
The blocked channel is also hurting boaters and businesses in the area. Henry Gootee, of Gootee's Marine, says an important navigational marker, placed in the Honga River by the U.S. Coast Guard, was removed back in November.
Now that it's gone, he says several boaters are now finding it hard to navigate around the Honga River. The dredging, he says, needs to be done soon.
"It's starting to run on and on and on now. It's like we're the forgotten people," Gootee said.
The U.S. Coast Guard said they removed the marker for safety reasons, adding that their own boats as well as other boats could run aground if they continued through the area.
Palley says until the all of it's fixed, he and other watermen can only rely on themselves.
"That's the way we've been doing it, yes," Palley said.