Dredging up the past

Dredging up the past

(Sept. 26, 2014) Although it sounds like a scenario more fit for Dubai, Ocean City will have a new, man-made island – courtesy of the federal government – by next year.

In a change of pace from last year’s dredging, which took place on the ocean side of the resort, the coming off-season will see two major projects from both city and federal contractors taking place in the bayside waterways.

Contractors hired by the Army Corps of Engineers arrived in the area last week in preparation for a $5.5 million dredging project that will clear federally-regulated channels in the Ocean City and Assateague areas, and place the errant sand back onto eroded islets,.

“The material from  the Isle of Wight will be place on the remnants of Collier Island, or what used to be Collier Island, most of which has been eroded away,” said Danielle Szimanski, Project Manager for the Corps.

“The goal is to re-create the bird habitat in the same footprint as what had been there years ago,” Szimanski said of the island, formerly located off 33rd Street.

The Corps’ contractor is currently using the site of the former Cropper’s Concrete plant, just north of the Route 50 Bridge, as a staging area to assemble the large volume of pipe needed to transfer the material being pumped from the floor of the bay to the locations where it is needed.

“What you’re seeing right now is our contractor getting his pipes fitted together, getting everything set up so that when the time comes he can get his pipe in the water and down to where we need to dredge,” Szimanski said. “The pipe comes in 500-foot sections and has to be fused together by hand. It’s going to take a while.”

Further, the Town of Ocean City is ready to embark on a long-awaited, $750,000 project to dredge silt and accumulated debris from city canals and stormwater outfalls.

“We’re waiting on our contractor to mobilize,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “There was some delay in getting the equipment down from Baltimore, but we’re looking to get started any day now.”

The federal government, via the Army Corps, controls and maintains a number of water lanes throughout the county that have been deemed vital to commerce and national security. Most of these jurisdictions were put in place over a century ago, pre-dating many state and local agencies that would otherwise be responsible for them.

The Corps’ Baltimore district maintains 78 miles of federal channels with roughly 4.5 million square feet of bottoms dredged every year, according to Corps Chief of Public Affairs Chris Augsburger.

“We have our survey crew periodically do condition surveys to make sure the channels are at depth,” Szimanski said. For the Sinepuxent and Isle of Wight Bays, this depth is eight feet.

“Because a lot of Ocean City had impacts form Sandy, we had a lot of Sandy-related funding come through to make sure that this area is kept up to par.”

The Corps’ contractors will start near South Point, where the Sinepuxent begins to narrow for north-bound waterway traffic. A significant amount of work will also occur near the Verrazano Bridge, with sand being deposited on two islands just north and south, respectively, of the road span.

The Robin’s Marsh wetland area will also receive some material to prevent further habitat erosion.

From there, the Corps will move up into the Isle of Wight Bay, dredging the boating channel in three places between 7th and 12th, 18th and 23rd, and 32nd and 42nd Streets. Sand dredged from this area will be used on Collier Island as well as at the city’s inlet beach, just south of the commercial pier.

The city’s own dredging project will clear three canals – 48th Street, 52nd Street, and Hitchens to Trimper Avenues – as well as four stormwater outfalls that have become obstructed with bottom build-up.

The town had allocated $500,000 last budget year to canal dredging, but was unable to get the project planned in time to have work completed by this past spring.

“You can’t dredge between April 1 and June 30 because of summer flounder, and obviously we can’t dredge in the peak of summer because of traffic issues,” McGean said. “By the time we got the contract set up last year, the summer flounder moratorium was already in place.”

But with arrangements ready to go this year, the city expects to not only get last year’s dredging allotment done before April 2015, but also an additional $250,000 of work allocated in the current year’s budget.

 

JOSH DAVIS PHOTO
Barges set up just north of the Route 50 bridge in preparation of this year’s bay channel dredging project by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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