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Cliffs Of Dobbins Island Could Be Replaced

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LAKE SHORE, Md. (AP) — The cliffs of Dobbins Island could one day be replaced by steep, grassy hillsides if the state approves an extensive erosion control project planned on the Magothy River landmark.

Island owner David Clickner wants to build his dream house on top of the island.

But to complete an erosion control project that will meet state and county standards, Clickner has applied for permission to build banks from the top of the island’s cliffs down to points as far as 45 feet into the river around much of the island.

The banks, which would be built up with tens of thousands of cubic yards of fill dirt and covered with native grasses, are planned along more than 2,500 feet of shoreline. A stone revetment would be set up along the mean high tide line to help prevent erosion.

A beach on the island’s north shore would remain intact, but roughly three-quarters of the island would receive the new, grass-covered banks.

The project would add more than an acre to the roughly 7-acre island, project engineer Wayne Newton of Annapolis-based Messick & Associates said.

But the project isn’t about adding land to the island, he said.

It’s necessary to protect the existing property and to meet state and county erosion control standards, one of which requires the banks to be built at a 2:1 slope.

“Right now Dobbins Island is a significant environmental hazard,” Newton said. “(The project) is going to save the island and stop a tremendous amount of sediment from flowing into the Magothy River.”

The project doesn’t sit well with Magothy River Association President Paul Spadaro, who has asked the state to hold a public hearing on Clickner’s application for a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment. The application also contains a request to build a 70-foot by 16-foot boat ramp.

A 30-day public comment period for the application already is under way and will remain open until Jan. 1, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said in an email.

The state plans to hold a public hearing, at Spadaro’s request, to receive additional comments about the application. The hearing has not yet been scheduled, but likely will take place in February.

After the close of the public hearing, the state will complete its review, evaluate any public comments and submit a report and recommendation to the state’s Board of Public Works, Apperson said.

Wetlands licenses for the project, required whenever wetlands are disturbed, must be approved by the Board of Public Works.

Spadaro called Clickner’s plan “impractical” and said it would only serve to increase his property value.

“The biggest concern I have with it is, if you paid for seven acres and then a few years later you say that to protect your property you want to add on two more acres, why wouldn’t anybody else on the Magothy do that?” Spadaro said.

He suggested planting trees on top of the island to help prevent erosion. Spadaro called erosion of the island “natural” and something that has occurred for years.

“There has to be a more reasonable and sensible approach to this,” he said.

Clickner said the project has been in the planning stages since he purchased the island in 2004. He thought the Magothy River Association would support a plan that would help prevent sediment from flowing into the river, he said.

“I don’t particularly understand how the environmental group can oppose something . when it will do nothing but help the clarity of the water,” Clickner said.

Newton said the island used to be much larger, though he didn’t know the exact size, but has shrunk significantly because of erosion.

“We’re basically putting back a portion of the island that was previously there,” he said. “If you go back in history, it was much bigger. We’re not even reclaiming all of it that was lost.”

The island is still actively eroding, he said.

“Unfortunately, the appeals of local folks and community associations has delayed it five years and allowed more erosion to take place,” he said.

The battle for Dobbins Island has been tied up in hearings and court cases since Clickner began submitting applications to build his dream home seven years ago.

Most recently, the Magothy River Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation went before the Maryland Court of Appeals to argue that the public’s use of the Dobbins Island beach, from the mean high tide line to the vegetation line, should be allowed because of 20-plus years of continued public use.

Clickner and wife Diana are concerned about the liability issues that come with the public’s use of the beach.

The Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the issue.

The county Board of Appeals also is set to hear an appeal of the grading and building permits approved by the county for Clickner’s home.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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