(Nov. 1, 2013) A group of West Ocean City residents are looking for funds to dredge a channel in Sinepuxent Bay west of Skimmmer Island near the Route 50 bridge.
Members of the West Ocean City Association decided last Thursday to meet with local developers and others to discuss funding and other issues in hopes of devising a plan of action by April.
Deb Maphis said area residents use the west channel for boating. They use it to go elsewhere in Sinepuxent or the other coastal bays.
“Everybody on the north side of the bridge uses that west channel,” Maphis said during the association’s meeting at the Ocean City Lions Den on Airport Road.
Maphis was disappointed that the Army Corps of Engineers had not made it a project.
“The Army Corps totally ignored the west channel,” Maphis said.
She, like the others at the meeting, was hopeful private funds could be raised to dredge the channel.
Carolyn Cummins said they could possibly tag the project onto the dredging process near Skimmer Island, but not on its west side, that will be taking place this winter. Someone or some organization would have to sponsor the permit, but the West Ocean City Association could do that, she said.
Roman Jesien, science coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, said they should “look for a number of consultants” to see what’s feasible and what funding is available. He also said the Gudelskys, developers of waterfront property in West Ocean City near the commercial harbor, “are in line.” Maphis said three area businesses, a marina, a restaurant and a watersports enterprise, were also likely to donate funds to the cause.
If funds are found and the project takes place, Jesien said, there is plenty of room on Skimmer Island for deposits of dredge material.
Last March, 634 cubic yards of sand were pumped onto Skimmer Island, but there is ample room for more. Two areas that received sand in 2011 and 2012 experienced substantial erosion as a result of Superstorm Sandy last October. The island also experienced considerable erosion of its eastern and northeastern shorelines during that storm.
According to Jesien, continued annual nourishment of Skimmer Island is needed to balance the annual loss of sand to erosion. The island, he said, is going to continue to move around.
“The only constant is that stuff changes,” he said. “It’ll move one year and we’ll put it back the next year.”
Skimmer Island, which reached its maximum size of 7.1 acres in 1998, declined to just over two acres in the spring of 2011.
Ideally, some areas of Skimmer Island should be high enough for vegetation and low enough for birds. It is the nesting site for black skimmers and royal terns, both of which are listed as endangered in the state. The island is also the site where thousands of horseshoe crabs breed each May and June.