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Debris Has Crabbers Concerned After Heavy Rains

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A giant mass of logs and trash, clogging the Chesapeake Bay, washing ashore, even shutting down swimming at Sandy Point State Park.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life." One woman visiting Annapolis from California said.

The slew of debris from as far as upstate New York is now hitting our region after officials were forced to open gates on the Conowingo Dam in the Susquehanna River. This is due to the rain that pounded the area last week.

For Blair Baltus, he's bearing the brunt of that debris.

"When that flood water came down, it killed most of the crabs that were in the pots. "

President of the Baltimore Watermens Association, Baltus says these months are supposed to be the peak of crab catching season.

"With these gates opening up it pretty much flushed away everything we had." Baltus said.

Instead, Baltus' boat sits dormant and 900 of his crab pots are now out of the water.

"We're tied up, and no place to go." Baltus said.

A combination of debris and sediment clogging some of the pots, moving the lines of pots and killing hundreds of crabs inside - a devastating trifecta.

Baltus, who has been doing this for years and is well-known in the industry, says this is the worst season he's had since 2011.

With just weeks to go in this season, Baltus says it could already be the end for him and others. Although, the hope is to get one last haul. Baltus says he'll never recoup the money that's already been lost.

"I mean, you may as well stuff a fork in us now probably, what we were hoping to come with this moon, with this dry spell we've had, we're not going to see that." Baltus said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment says Sandy Point, Fort Smallwood and Pond Drive are all closed due to the debris. They say it's important for people to know about their general guidance to avoid swimming within 48 hours of a heavy rain event, or until the water clears.

They're encouraging people to get information on beach conditions at the Maryland Healthy beaches website.

State and local officials have blamed Exelon for the debris problems. The company owns the Conowingo Dam and officials say they believe they could have done a better job of clearing debris out before opening the gates.

Exelon has said all week they always clean out debris before opening the gates, using all sorts of equipment. They say to date, they have already collected more than 600 tons of debris.

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