From Deborah Bowers, Save The Rocks:
Plans to construct a stone wall within Deer Creek to stabilize Route 24 through Rocks State Park are progressing despite concerns about the environmental impacts of its construction – particularly given the revelation that a species of freshwater mussel in need of conservation lives within that stretch of creek.
The State Highway Administration reviewed its plans for restructuring the streambank of Deer Creek along MD 24 through Rocks State Park Feb. 8 in Bel Air. Members of the community were present to examine the graphic depictions of stone walls that will be constructed in Deer Creek, against the embankment where the creek runs along the roadway.
Referred to as an imbricated stone wall, the SHA said every attempt will be made to address the community’s concern that the wall, constructed in two sections between St. Clair Bridge Rd. and just south the Rapids Area Parking lot within the park, has an appearance that blends with the natural environment of the park.
Construction could begin in about 16 months, in May or June of 2013, according to project coordinator Kirk McClelland.
The project was originally planned as a roadway reconstruction project that would move MD 24, or Rocks Rd., up to 20 feet away from the creek, a plan that would have required blasting of rock faces and boulders and removal of significant portions of the hillside along the road. Members of the community, formed into a group called Save the Rocks, strongly opposed the plan and Harford County Councilman Chad Shrodes and County Executive David Craig appointed an advisory committee to work with the SHA to find an alternative solution to addressing the eroding streambank that was chafing away soils needed to support the road surface.
The group Save the Rocks had to look no farther than the opposite side of the creek for the answer. There, they saw a massive stacked stone wall holding up the side of the creek that had evidently been constructed in the 19th century to support the Ma and Pa Railroad. Members took photos of the wall, which has over the decades blended into the rocky landscape, and presented the photos to SHA as the solution to the erosion problem. SHA knew of the method, called imbricated stone, and presented it as an option.
The construction project will require that the creek be “de-watered” to allow forming of a foundation for the wall. The project has been closely followed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its effects on the aquatic life in the stream. According to Mitch Keiler, a biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Field Office of the USFWS, two species of mussel reside at or near the construction site. One of the species, strophitus undulatus, also known as the creeper, is “in need of conservation,” Keiler said, which means the mussel may become threatened in the future if current conditions persist. Keiler urged the SHA to limit its “footprint” for the project. He said that his agency would be working with the Dept. of Natural Resources to “to find the best way to address” the situation.
Joe DaVia of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose permitting process will determine whether the project can go forward, told SHA also to attempt to limit the area of disturbance in the creek, now estimated at about one-half acre. “It behooves you to get below that,” he said.
Members of Save the Rocks expressed concern about the number of trees that will be removed and the length of the walls, questioning whether the overall lengths of the two sections could possibly be shortened. McClellan said the length of the walls was determined necessary and that the ends of the walls would be tied into the embankment to lessen impact of water flow, particularly during flooding.
Deer Creek Section A Wall Renderings: