Steering Committee Created to Examine Future of Hart-Miller Island

photo courtesy of Maryland DNR-

As part of the latest effort to support regional port infrastructure following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore County announced a call for applications to serve on a new steering committee to lead an extensive public engagement process regarding the development of a potential new community benefit agreement to support Hart-Miller Island.

This past legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB343, which requires an approved Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) to directly support to Hart-Miller Island as a threshold component of efforts to accelerate a major port infrastructure project at Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point.

Individuals interested in serving on the Steering Committee may apply here.

“As we continue to support the reopening of the Port of Baltimore and the reinvigoration of our regional economy, it’s critical we explore every opportunity to come back stronger than ever,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

“As someone familiar with the history of Hart-Miller Island — and deeply passionate about its future— my administration is focused on leading a community-centered conversation that ensures any efforts to bolster our economy also includes significant benefits to our neighborhoods and our people.” 
 
“When extraordinary opportunities are presented, often extraordinary measures are necessary. This legislation opens the possibility for a substantial community benefit, including transforming Hart-Miller Island into a national model and destination,” said Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell. “The legislation ensures the community is part of the process. Continued collaboration between the County Executive and my office, Tradepoint, our state partners, and the community will be essential as we move forward.”

Hart-Miller Island (HMI) was originally part of a chain of three islands that suffered from severe erosion for decades.

In 1970, the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) proposed using dredged material to address erosion issues and restore the remnants of the two larger islands, Hart Island and Miller Island.

A dike joining Hart Island and Miller Island was constructed in 1981, and the impoundment received dredged material from the Baltimore Harbor shipping channels from 1984 to 2009. The Maryland State Legislature required the final closure of HMI in 2009.

Under the legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) could consider the placement of dredged material at the Hart-Miller Island Dredged Material Containment Facility, contingent on the approval of a Community Benefit Agreement to support Hart-Miller Island and its surrounding communities—as well as pending state regulatory compliance. Material placement would be limited to no later than December 31, 2027.

Temporary dredging material placement at the existing Hart-Miller Island Dredged Material Containment Facility would accelerate major port infrastructure efforts currently underway at Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA), the 3,300-acre global multimodal logistics hub and industrial center located at the former Bethlehem Steel site in Sparrows Point whose marine terminal remains open and is continuing to accept arrivals and provide additional capacity for redirected cargo.

In late 2022, TPA announced a joint investment and partnership with Terminal Investment Limited (TIL) a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the world’s largest shipping company to establish the Sparrows Point Container Terminal (SPCT) an on-site 165-acre container terminal with an on-dock rail facility at Coke Point.

The facility would nearly double the Port’s container capacity and serve as an additional access point for international shipping vessels to enhance and support the long-term growth of the Port.  The new port is expected to directly employ 1,100 longshoreman and support 6,000 additional port-related jobs.

Currently set to open in 2028, expedited removal of dredged material would significantly accelerate the new container terminal project’s timeline.

“We appreciate state, local and community leaders coming together to allow a discussion to occur around the potential use of existing capacity at Hart-Miller Island to meet the significant dredge needs for the new Sparrows Point Container Terminal,” said Aaron Tomarchio, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Tradepoint Atlantic. 

“Acting now to signal a desire to advance this economically and strategically significant port project will help ensure the port’s rapid recovery, long-term growth, and resiliency.  This is the exact message we need to send to the global shipping community. Baltimore is building back, bigger, better, and stronger.”   

Under the legislation, TPA must enter into a Community Benefit Agreement with Baltimore County in consultation with the Hart-Miller-Pleasure Island Citizens Oversight Committee and subject to approval of the Baltimore County Council—prior to applying for dredging approval from MDE.

If a CBA is not approved by December 31, 2024, efforts to apply for approval to place of dredged material at the Hart-Miller Island Dredged Material Containment Facility would lapse.

“We applaud County Executive Olszewski and Councilman Crandell for their support to begin a long-overdue conversation about how we can address historic inequities and further support Hart Miller Island and our surrounding communities,” said Paul Brylske, Chairman Hart-Miller Pleasure Island Citizen Oversight Committee. Moving forward, we remain committed to promoting a collaborative, ongoing dialogue focused on maximizing benefits to our community and addressing residents’ concerns on safety and ensuring long-term support for our neighborhoods.”

To support this work, Baltimore County has announced plans to establish a community-led Steering Committee which will be responsible for leading open discussions with core members and other stakeholders to develop options for the framework of a community benefit agreement. The Steering Committee will consist of 9 community members.

To be eligible to serve, individuals must be a Baltimore County resident.

Individuals interested in serving on the Hart-Miller Island Community Benefit Agreement Steering Committee may apply here.
 
The first meeting of the Hart-Miller Island Community Benefit Agreement Steering Committee will be held in August 2024 with exact details to be announced in the coming weeks.

More information about the Hart-Miller Island Community Benefit Agreement Steering Committee is available here.

B.J. Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later Eastcountytimes.com in 2022.