CRISFIELD — Maryland’s U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have included Somerset County funding requests among the most recent appropriations bills.
Congressionally Directed Spending Requests for the continuation of the hiker-biker trail, a hanger for the airport, and plans for dredging in the Pocomoke River total $3.9 million.
Somerset County Recreation, Parks & Tourism has formally dedicated the Terrapin Run Trail from Marion to Crisfield, and the route from Marion to Westover is in the design phase. Congress is being asked to provide $3 million for construction of the remaining 7.84 miles.
At the Crisfield-Somerset County Airport, the county requested $500,000 from the state for a new hanger and last fiscal year received $300,000. A project like this would be key to promoting the site for more operational and recreational use. To get the project built the County Commissioners are requesting an additional $750,000 from the federal government.
Sen. Van Hollen was at the American Legion in Crisfield last month meeting with local government and business leaders and heard some of their priorities first-hand.
He said for example that the additional funds for the airport will help the county put that project "over the finish line."
"Any funding," said Commissioner President Craig Mathies Sr., "would be greatly appreciated." That includes dredging, and along those lines the senators are endorsing a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for $150,000 to start the engineering and design for dredging the Pocomoke River, a federally-authorized channel last dredged nearly 20 years ago.
In addition to commercial watermen and recreational boaters it serves heavy industry but their capacity has been limited due to severe shoaling.
Another location in need of dredging is Smith Island, and Eddie Somers, president of Smith Island United, said there are select locations that need to be made deeper in addition to having docks refurbished.
He told Sen. Van Hollen that "tourism is booming" right now and even watermen have transitioned to tourist-related enterprises. The senator expressed his support, recalling the extensive work completed in 2018 to protect Rhodes Point.
"At the present we’re working on a major infrastructure modernization bill," Sen. Van Hollen said, and it has "a large increase in resources for everything from repairing roads and bridges to broadband, transit and boating." "That may be a source."
Crisfield Mayor Barry Dize said the city earlier this year completed an engineering study that ranked priorities and estimated the cost for each one and the total was over $17 million. "We need help with that," he said, saying infrastructure wears out faster here because of salt water.
"We want to move forward but until we get these things fixed it’s hard to do," he said.
"We will work with you on infrastructure," Sen. Van Hollen replied, reminding him the city is receiving $2.1 million from the American Rescue Plan which is flexible how it can be used and not entirely focused on COVID-19 relief.
Todd Conway on behalf of Handy Seafood asked Sen. Van Hollen to help address the labor shortage, regulatory issues regarding the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, and to look into ineffective FDA enforcement of misleading labeling by competitors that sell products called "seafood" when they are plant-based.
"We see crabcakes," Mr. Conway said, "with no crab in the product. Clearly misleading...a fake seafood product."
The senator asked for specifics on these so he can follow up. As for the labor issue he and Sen. Cardin and the entire Maryland delegation are working for a carve-out for the seafood industry so this doesn’t continue to be an issue each year.
Maryland’s junior senator is a member of the Appropriations Committee and member of the Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development and Related Agencies and Interior & Environment and Related Agencies.
He said he plans to return to Crisfield for the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake in October provided there’s no voting in the senate that day.