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Dock of the Bay: May 3-9, 2018

Severn River Bridge; Pigs & Pearls update; Helly Hansen NOOD; Boater Safety; Rivers Edge Restaurant; Goldman Environmental Prize

Easing Backup on the Severn River Bridge
Additional eastbound lane now open
       If the Bay Bridge is the gateway to the Eastern Shore, the Severn River Bridge, five miles to the west, is the gateway to the Bay Bridge.
       At peak driving times, that gateway turns into a major bottleneck.
      More than 125,000 vehicles crossed the Severn River Bridge on a typical weekday last year. On a Friday in summertime, that number climbed an additional 20,000 drivers.
      Living just north of the Severn River, I’m one of those drivers — some days I’m four or five of them. 
      So I was curious — as well as concerned given the number of serious traffic accidents along that stretch of U.S. Route 50 — when Maryland State Highway Administration unveiled plans last year to expand the eastbound lanes from three to four. How, I wondered, do you do that on a bridge?
      Now, nearly eight months later, the answer is there to see — and drive.
      Engineers shaved off one foot in width from all lanes, east- and westbound. In addition, they reduced the width of the barrier between the two directions from three feet to two and shrunk the outer shoulder on each side of the bridge from three feet to one. That allowed the bridge to add the fourth eastbound lane for a total of seven lanes, each now 11 feet wide as opposed to the 12 feet before.
      April 30 was the first day of the new eastbound traffic pattern, with the extra lane on the right funneling directly into the exit for Route 2 North and Route 450 West.
      While the re-engineering of the lanes is finished, work continues on the shoulders, and the asphalt approaching and following the bridge on both sides is a chunky patchwork of grades awaiting pavement.
      The new 11-foot lanes are tight and narrow, like a luge chute, offering little room for error with speeding cars jockeying for position. But in the midst of beach traffic or rush hour, that won’t be a problem, as cars can’t attain any significant speed.
    But even in the thickest traffic, the new fourth lane will reduce congestion along the bridge by 25 percent … for now. Highway Administration estimates predict that the number of vehicles crossing the Severn River Bridge will increase 20 percent by 2040.
–J. Alex Knoll
Pigs, Pearls and Pirates
Drinks at the dock bar kick off season
      The pig got a little roasty at Pigs & Pearls April 28 at Pirates Cove in Galesville. But she reports it was all worth it.
      After months of cold, the sun appeared to bless the community that keeps the West River healthy, swim-able, paddle-able and fishable. 
      West/Rhode Riverkeeper Jeff Holland joined his former band The Eastport Oyster Boys to sing the praises of submerged aquatic vegetation as party-goers gobbled freshly shucked oysters and barbecue.
     “We’re grateful to Anthony Clarke and Michael Galway for their support,” Holland said. “It was a lot of fun, as always.”
     “We had a count of 135 people compared to around 100 last year, so the good weather definitely helped,” Clarke said.
     Last year, Pigs and Pearls raised $1,000 to help fund the Riverkeeper’s water-quality monitoring program, paying the lab fees for bacteria testing.
       Citizen-scientist volunteers are out on the water every week from May through October, testing 28 sites in both rivers to, says Holland, “make sure we’re making progress in preserving and protecting our waterways.”
–Kathy Knotts
Fast Boats Sail the Bay
That’s NOOD: the Helly Hansen National ­Offshore One Design Regatta 
       The largest sailboat-racing series in the United States cruises back to Annapolis this weekend, May 4-6, for the 30th anniversary. The Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design — aka NOOD — Regatta has more than 180 boats registered this year. 
      With only a few stops each year, NOOD attracts sailors from around the world, looking to hold their own against the nautical power in Annapolis.
       Our sailing capital, Annapolis, is typically the largest regatta of the series, which includes annual races in St. Petersburg, San Diego and Chicago, with a final showdown in the British Virgin Islands for the top sailors from each city. 
      “It’s the first major regatta of the year for Chesapeake Bay sailors,” says David Reed, editor of Sailing World Magazine. “The locals are always eager to shake off the winter rust with a weekend packed with races and parties.”
      Each event in the Annapolis series spans three days of competitive sailboat racing from 11am to 2pm. Sailing teams race against boats of the same size and type in each of the 10 classes.
      They’ll be the fast boats you see on the Bay outside Annapolis.
      Points are accrued based on finishing position, so in this game, the fewer points a team ends with, the better. 
     Helly Hansen’s Regatta Series is inclusive, with a competitive handicap class with varying sizes and types of boats. The company also sponsors a local teen sailing squad known as the Junior Crew. These teen teams are chosen at each stop on the regatta national series. 
       “Annapolis is a sailors’ town,” says Reed, “and when the NOOD Regatta gets underway the town comes alive, on the water and ashore.” 
–Shelby Conrad
Steer Clear of Trouble
Safe boating is for anyone on the water
       A boat out of water, stranded on a sandy shoreline or a rocky jetty. Groundings like those are more reason to brush up on the rules of the water before you fire an engine this boating season.
      The distressed captain of this 17-footer ran it aground April 29, when, according to a Coast Guard report, the boat “became beset by inclement weather.” Their shore was an island, and their rescue by Coast Guard helicopter.
       “Adverse weather conditions can suddenly emerge and impact anyone’s underway voyage at any time,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Terrence Young, operations unit controller for the case. “That’s why it’s vital to continuously check weather forecasts in your area and prepare for the worst-case scenario by bringing appropriate safety gear and dressing for harsh conditions.”
      Far worse can happen. 
      By April 20, boating accidents had claimed the lives of four people in Maryland, the deadliest start to a boating season in more than six years. That’s before boating season was out of first gear, with the weather inhospitable and rockfish season not yet opened. 
       Ignorance makes bad seagoing company. 
      Maryland Safe Boating courses go a long way in in combatting ignorance by teaching a full range of safety skills for water sports, power boating, sailing and using personal water craft, including rules of navigation, life jacket and weather. 
      Taking the class and passing the test are required by Maryland law for any person born after July 1, 1972 who operates a motorized boat in Maryland waters.
        This summer, choose Safe Boating classes offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxilary in Eastport or Annapolis Recreation and Parks. Coast Guard classes meet three days at Eastport Fire Department: May 8, 10 & 15; June 5, 7, & 12; June 21, 26 & 28; $25, rsvp: ­[email protected] Recreation & Parks two-day classes meet at Pip Moyer Recreation Center May 9 & 14; June 13 & 18; July 11 & 16; $25, rsvp: 410-263-7958.
        Bay Weekly routinely lists Safe Boating classes in 8 Days a Week. 
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
Benedict Restaurant Burns
Rivers Edge rose after hurricane, falls in fire
       Rivers Edge Restaurant in Benedict, burned to a shell Thursday, April 19.
       About 4:30 that afternoon, a smokers urn outside the front door began smoking and ignited nearby empty boxes, according to Aaron Ruslander, one of the chiefs of the Benedict Volunteer Fire Department. A 40- to 50-mile-an-hour wind aided the fire. People in the restaurant and nearby attempted to extinguish the flames and ran to seek help at the nearby firehouse.
       Two volunteer firefighters on duty rushed into action. By the time their truck arrived, the structure was fully engulfed in flames. Additional units came from Hughesville, Prince Frederick, St Leonard, Bayden and beyond. All the fire departments in the area are volunteer.
       The fire was brought under control within about 45 minutes. 
       “I thank all the volunteer fire fighters from the nearby communities who came to Benedict’s aid,” said Chief Ruslander.
–Peggy Traband
Way Downstream 
       From Flint, Mich., LeeAnne Walters last week received the Goldman Environmental Prize and its $175,000 cash award, a globally known honor that recognizes extraordinary grass-roots efforts to sound alarms about dangers we face.
      It was Walters who told the world about problems with Flint’s drinking water after the city switched sources to save money. She and her twins developed rashes and their hair was falling out. But the city ignored her for months, and the state continued to insist that the foul, brownish water she toted around in plastic bottles was safe.
      “We were going into city council meetings and being told we were liars, we were stupid, that this wasn’t our water,” Walters told public radio last week.
Judges noted that Walters eventually gathered 800 water samples from homes in every zip code of the city that, when tested, showed levels of lead and other impurities that far exceeded what is considered hazardous.