(Jan. 10, 2014) The Worcester County Commissioners pledged their support, but no money, Tuesday for a solution to a problem at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City.
“We’ll help you to the fullest extent, but we have no money,” Bud Church, president of the commissioners, told John Martin of Martin Fish Company, and Spencer Rowe, an environmental consultant. “It’s one of the industries we can really support.”
The problem, Martin and Rowe had told the commissioners, is a persistent shoal at the inlet, making it difficult and sometimes impossible, for some commercial vessels to reach the harbor. Boats of all sizes hit the sand bar even when the tide is high, but the larger vessels are unable to enter unless the tide if high. At low tide, smaller vessels get stuck and larger ones cannot cross it and must wait for the tide to change.
Despite dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers in October, the sand bar had reappeared between two entrance buoys.
Rowe said the area needs dredging to a deeper level.
“They can dredge to 10 feet with federal money,” Rowe said.
He said he wants dredging done to a depth of 14 feet, but to make that possible, local assistance is needed to provide matching funds.
“That’s the way the law works, the federal law,” he said.
The county must be part of the effort to make deeper dredging possible. What was needed, he said, was a committee or some other entity to work with the state and Ocean City to see “what’s out there” and to try to get matching funds.
Many years ago, Martin said, commercial boats were considerably smaller, but their size has increased with the passage of years. Some of the vessels using the harbor are from out of state.
“Last week, a boat had to turn around, go back out and wait three hours,” Martin said.
He recently had difficulty navigating the channel. He said he had to figure out how to get it through the inlet and actually hit one of the buoys.
Going outside of the buoys is not an option, at least not a good one. If a boat goes outside of the navigational buoys and gets damaged, insurance won’t pay, Martin said.
October’s dredging, Martin said, was not even obvious now.
“You’d wonder if they were even there,” he said.
Church sees the problem as an ever-present one.
“It’s an ongoing problem that redevelops in 60 to 90 days,” he said.
Rowe said he did not know what dredging to a deeper depth might cost, but he added that he was not asking for money at this time. He again asked for a task force.
Ed Tudor, director of the Department of Development Review and Permitting, said he did not expect for anyone to get an answer about the cause of the reoccurring sandbar.
“It’s probably a lot more complicated than meets the eye,” Tudor said. “In the interim, continue the dredging.”
The commissioners will write letters of support and Martin and Rowe will contact Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office to see what, if anything, can be done about the persistent problem.