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CRISFIELD HARBOR, MD.
THE SECRETARY OF WAR,
WITH A LETTER FROM THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, REPORT ON
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION OF CRISFIELD HARBOR, MD.
OCTOBER 27, 1919.-Referred to the Committee on Rivers and Harbors and ordered
to be printed, with illustration.
Washington, October 25, 1919. The SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a letter from the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, of 23d instant, together with report of Col. J. J. Loving, Engineers, dated August 14, 1919, with map, on a preliminary examination of Crisfield Harbor, Md., authorized by the river and harbor act approved March 2, 1919. Very respectfully,
NEWTON D. BAKER,
Secretary of War.
Washington, October 23, 1919.
1. There is submitted herewith, for transmission to Congress, report dated August 14, 1919, with map, by Col. J. J. Loving, Engineers, on preliminary examination of Crisfield Harbor, Md., authorized by the river and harbor act approved March 2, 1919.
2. Crisfield Harbor is situated on an estuary of Tangier Sound, which is part of Chesapeake Bay. The existing project provides for dredging a channel 12 feet deep at mean low water and 425 feet wide from the 12-foot contour in Tangier Sound to opposite Somers Cove Light, thence with a width of 266 feet to above the railroad wharf, and for an anchorage basin with a depth of 10 feet at mean low water and width of 250 feet. This project was completed in 1914, and has been maintained in good condition. The total expenditures at this harbor to June 30, 1918, amounted to $90,079.50. The desires of interested parties regarding additional improvements have not been clearly indicated, but a main channel 25 feet deep at mean low water, and a branch channel into Somers Cove, have been suggested. This harbor is the center of the oyster and crab industry of Chesapeake Bay, and is visited by a large namber of small vessels. In 1918 its commerce amounted to 289,274 tons, valued at $8,512,415. Considering the character of the commerce, however, it is not apparent that a depth of 25 feet is required at this locality. The district engineer states that the provision of such a channel would necessitate dredging for a distance of about 41 miles, and he is of opinion that the existing and prospective commerce will not justify the large expenditure of funds required to effect this portion of the desired improvement. The proposed channel into Somers Cove would provide better facilities for reaching a few wharves and packing houses, but these facilities are not shown to be really needed. The entrance to the cove has been contracted by the dumping of oyster shells, and the area inside has been used as a graveyard for discarded hulks, which interested parties now wish removed by the United States. The district engineer states that the benefit to be derived from the further improvement of Somers Cove Channel would be restricted, and he believes that it is not advisable for the United States to undertake the work. The division engineer concurs in the views of the district engineer.
3. This report has been referred, as required by law, to the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and attention is invited to its report herewith, dated September 23, 1919, concurring in the unfavorable views of the district and division engineers.
4. After due consideration of the above-mentioned reports, I concur in the views of the district engineer, the division engineer, and the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and therefore report that the improvement by the United States of Crisfield Harbor, Md., is not deemed advisable to a greater extent than is authorized by the existing project.
W. M. BLACK,
REPORT OF THE BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS.
BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS,
September 23, 1919. To the CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, UNITED STATES ARMY:
1. The following is in review of the district engineer's report authorized by the river and harbor act of March 2, 1919, on preliminary examination of Crisfield Harbor, Md.
2. This harbor is situated on an estuary of Tangier Sound, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay. The existing project adopted by the river and harbor act of March 2, 1907, provides for dredging a channel 12 feet deep at mean low water and 425 feet wide from the 12-foot contour in Tangier Sound to opposite Somers Cove Light, thence with a width of 266 feet to above the railroad wharf, and to provide an anchorage basin with a depth of 10 feet at mean low water and width of 250 feet. The mean range of tide is 2.6 feet. The project was completed in 1914 and has been maintained. On this and previous projects there has been expended $90,079.50.
3. The town of Crisfield, with a population of about 5,400, is the center of the oyster and crab industry of Chesapeake Bay. A steam packet line operates regularly between Baltimore and Crisfield, and the port is the headquarters for a large number of small sailing and fishing boats. The commerce is of a miscellaneous character consisting chiefly of oysters, oyster shells, and potatoes, and amounting in the aggregate in 1918 to 289,274 tons, valued at $8,512,415.
4. The improvement desired appears to be somewhat indefinite. A channel 25 feet deep up to the railroad wharf has been suggested, and also an improved channel into Somers Cove, branching from the present 12-foot channel. The 25-foot channel is reported as unworthy of serious consideration, as it would require dredging to that depth for a distance of 47 miles, and it seems clear that existing and prospective commerce would not justify such an undertaking. The natural area available for the use of light-draft craft in Somers Cove has been encroached upon by local interests filling in with oyster shells, and by permitting its use as a graveyard for old hulks. Apparently it is now desired that the United States remove these obstructions. The district engineer states that this work would be a convenience to some of the local interests, but would not result in any increase of commerce and could not be justified by the benefits to general commerce and navigation. He therefore reports that the locality is not worthy of further improvement by the United States at this time. The division engineer concurs in this view.
5. Interested parties were informed of the tenor of the district engineer's report and given an opportunity of submitting their views, but no communications on the subject have been received.
6. The town of Crisfield is an important center for the oyster, fish, and crab industry and also a point of receipt by water and shipment inland by rail of a large quantity of potatoes and other farm or garden products. These commodities are handled on light and moderate draft vessels, for which existing facilities appear quite adequate. There is no direct foreign commerce and the amount that would come into existence through making this a deep-water port by the provision of a channel 25 feet deep would be very small and certainly insufficient to justify even a small part of the cost of such an improvement. The branch channel into Somers Cove and the removal of abandoned wrecks is a work apparently made desirable through misuse of the harbor by local interests. The improvement contemplated would not result in an increase in commerce and apparently is not necessary in the interests of general navigation. Encroachments upon the natural harbor areas should be rectified by those responsible therefor, or by the community concerned. The board therefore concurs in the opinion of the district and division engineers that it is not advisable for the United States to undertake any additional improvement of Crisfield Harbor at the present time.
7. In compliance with law, the board reports that there are no questions of terminal facilities, water power, or other related subjects which could be coordinated with the suggested improvement in such manner as to render the work advisable in the interests of commerce and navigation. For the board:
W. C. LANGFITT,
Senior Member of the Board.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION OF CRISFIELD HARBOR, MD.
Baltimore, Md., August 14, 1919.
(Through the Division Engineer). Subject: Preliminary examination of Crisfield Harbor, Md.
1. The following report on preliminary examination of Crisfield Harbor, Md., provided for in the river and harbor act of March 2, 1919, is submitted, in accordance with department letter of March 14, 1919.
2. Crisfield Harbor, Md., is situated on the east side of Little Annemessex River, about 2 miles from Tangier Sound. It is in latitude 37° 59' N. and longitude 75° 51' W., and is about 116 miles southeast of Baltimore, Md., and about 95 miles north by east of Norfolk, Va. Little Annemessex River is merely an estuary of Tangier Sound, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay. The harbor lies on both sides of the town of Crisfield, extending northerly in the river and southeasterly into Somers Cove. The watershed in the vicinity of the river and the cove consists of low-lying land, marshy, for most part, along the shore, and at no place, within a distance of 15 miles, does it rise to an elevation as high as 20 feet above mean low water.
3. The existing project for Crisfield Harbor was adopted by the river and harbor act of March 2, 1907. The project is described in House Document No. 783, Fifty-ninth Congress, first session, which contains the preliminary examination and survey reports. To date the United States has expended $90,079.50 in dredging and maintaining a channel 12 feet deep at mean low water from the 12-foot contour in Tangier Sound 425 feet wide to Somers Cove Light, thence with a width of 266 feet to “above the railroad wharf," and also an irregularly shaped anchorage basin about 2,200 feet long, 10 feet deep, and 250 feet maximum width. The length of dredged channel is about 2 miles. The harbor proper with a depth of 12 feet varies in width from about 600 feet just above the railroad wharf to about 200 feet at the ice house, about 700 feet north, with an area of about 800 by 400 feet of this depth south of the railroad pier. Above
the ice house, the limit of the existing project, there is an available width of about 450 feet for a distance of about 3,500 feet, with a depth varying from 12 to 6 feet. The maximum controlled depth in the dredged channel is 12 feet at mean low water. The mean range of tide is 2.6 feet and the extreme tidal range is 3.2 feet under ordinary conditions.
4. In the southeasterly part of the harbor, known as Somers Cove, there is a depth of from 9 feet in the approach to about 3 feet over an area of about 10 acres included within United States harbor lines, which have also been established over the other portions of the harbor. The mean range of tide is about 2.6 feet.
5. The town of Crisfield is said to have a population of about 5,400 and to be the business center of an area of about 12 square miles with a population of about 15,000. It was the original terminus of the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk Railroad, which later was extended down the peninsula of Maryland and Virginia to Cape Charles City, leaving the old road from Kings Creek to Crisfield, a branch line about 16 miles in length.
6. The town is the center of the oyster and crab industry of the Chesapeake Bay, has a customhouse in charge of a deputy of the collector of customs at Baltimore, and its register of vessels is reported to be one of the largest in the United States, the vessels, however, being mostly small fishing boats and launches.
7. There is a regular steam packet line operating in both directions daily, except Sunday, between Baltimore and Crisfield, the vessels being of the side-wheel class of about 190 feet length, 55 feet width over wheelhouses, and a loaded draft of about 7 feet, with a gross tonnage of about 600.
8. The port is open for most of the year, being closed only by ice during the severest winters, and then only for short periods.
9. The vessel classification and commerce of the port for the year ending December 31, 1918, are as follows: