Volume 1, Number 8
eMDE is a monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. Additional monthly features include: MDE public meetings and hearings schedule, enforcement and compliance notes, and permitting activity.
By Scott Boylan
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Efforts to remove a collapsed abandoned railroad culvert in Mt. Savage (Allegany County) concluded successfully through the efforts of MDE, Allegany County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Culvert Collapse Threat to Homes and Roadways
Damage to the unmaintained structure occurred last year during high water events associated with Tropical Storm Ivan. Heavy rains caused the partial collapse of the 100-plus year-old structure’s cut stone culvert and slope failure of the upstream embankment. Complete failure would have caused the structure to act as a dam allowing flow to pool up to a depth of nearly 20 feet. Failure of the embankment would release impounded water which would have inundated over a dozen homes and roadways located immediately downstream.
MDE’s Dam Safety Division was contacted initially by Paul Kahl, of Allegany County DPW following discovery of the condition. After an initial inspection, Hal Van Aller, P.E., at the Dam Safety Division concluded that condition of the structure “when a structure poses a severe hazard to our citizens roads…. an urgent matter such as this requires immediate attention.”
MDE’s Water Management Administration’s Compliance Program began an investigation to determine ownership and responsibility for the structure. The abandoned railroad right of way, initially owned by the Union Mining Company was deeded in 1910 to the C&P Railroad, now CSX Transportation. The deed, however, specifically stated that the railroad has the right to use the culvert, suggesting that the railroad did not own the culvert. Attorneys for CSX believed that as a result of the specific mention of the culvert in the deed, CSX was not responsible for the maintenance of the structure. Subsequent review by MDE’s Attorney General’s Office agreed with CSX’s legal opinion.
Urgent Situation Calls for County to Act
A status investigation of Union Mining’s corporation and its subsequent mergers found unclear evidence of ownership, and responsibility for maintenance of the structure. At that point further discussion with MDE, Allegany County DPW and NRCS concluded that the situation was urgent enough for Allegany County to sponsor removing the unsafe structure and restoring the stream channel. The work was completed in conjunction with Emergency Watershed Protection Funding granted through the NRCS for post Ivan emergency projects in Allegany County. The county provided 25 percent of the funding, and the NRCS provided the remaining 75 percent.
During a recent visit to the site, Dr. Robert Summers, Director, Water Management Administration commented the project is an excellent example of how public agencies, at the local, state, and federal level can work together to solve critical problems to protect Maryland’s citizens. “The efforts of Allegany County and the NRCS in funding and designing the project, and their cooperation with government agency requirements are commendable,” said Dr. Summers.
MDE’s Wetlands and Waterway Program Grants Emergency Authorization
Designs to remove the structure and stabilize the stream channel with a series of step pools were completed by NRCS Engineers Roger Thomas and Tom Wensink. MDE’s Wetlands and Waterway Program granted emergency authorization and the project was completed in August, 2005 by Carl Belt, Inc., the successful bidder at a cost of $65,000.
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