Coastal Highway Flooding Questioned Again

OCEAN CITY – April’s showers, making an appearance in
March this year, dropped quite a bit of rain on the resort in a period of a
couple days recently, giving reason for concerned residents to question the
city’s powers regarding what it can do with the problem of flooding on Coastal
Highway after these deluges.

During the part of the Mayor and City Council’s open
session Monday night when citizens are allowed to make comments, local resident
Herb Pawlukewicz approached the microphone to make
his displeasure known.

“I’m tired of going along Coastal Highway riding through
floods,” he said. “If we had a catastrophe or a hurricane, we ain’t getting
out.”

Pawlukewicz inquired as to who’s
responsibility it is to take care of the flooding, whether it’s the state’s
since it is their highway, or the town’s since it is their job to control
stormwater management. Either way he said, nothing has been done in previous
years to alleviate the problem.

City Manager Dennis Dare countered, saying the town has
taken lots of initiatives in previous years to keep rainwater on site.

“For at least 10 to 15 years, we’ve required the
implementation of groundwater infiltration on all the new buildings on the east
side of Coastal Highway so the amount of water leaving the site and going down
the road across Coastal Highway has been reduced,” he said.

Dare went on to say the problem with water standing on
Coastal Highway became an issue almost 40 years ago when it was expanded for
more lanes. Unable to crown the road to better direct the flow of water like
that of the highway running south of 26th Street, Dare said the state opted to
super-elevate on an angle that runs from the beach to the bay instead, leaving
water to collect toward the median of the highway.

According to Dare, the town has looked for an opportunity
to try installing additional drains on the ocean side to reduce the amount of
water that collects, but that option would be quite expensive. However, he said
the town is exploring other possibilities.

“We finally found an opportunity with the construction of
the Gateway Grand that’s going to take two ocean blocks along Coastal Highway
on the east side and as part of the condition for their overlay district, they
have to install a stormwater system to our specifications to capture the
rainfall that falls on the street or on additional properties,” he said. “This
system is a test to see how effective this concept can be to improve the rest
of the highway.”

The experimental system should be installed in the area of
46th to 48th streets prior to next year and if the town finds that it works,
Dare said officials will find other ways to incorporate the technique further.
By keeping more water on site, water quality will improve, runoff will be
reduced and Coastal Highway will become clearer.

Another problem brought up came from local resident Bill
Crim who said stormwater drains running to the canals in the bay have had their
catch basins become clogged with sand and other materials, ultimately filling
the canals with sand as well, making them difficult to traverse in a boat at
low tide.

“That sand is in there and it has never been taken out,”
he said. “It was supposed to be designed so it would be a natural design to wash
that sand out. None of these canals I don’t think are designed right.”

Crim went on to say how the street cleaners have been an
improvement in catching much of the sand and trash before it is able to find
its way into catch basins, however, it’s not enough to fix the problem.

“That sand blows off that beach and as long as that beach
is there it’s going to keep on blowing and we’re going to have that problem,”
he said. “It’s a design we are going to have to live with one way or another.”

Dare said officials do inspect the canals and catch basins
regularly and was surprised to hear that the ones near Crim’s home on Peach
Tree Lane had become a problem already.

Dare continued, saying the city has been aware of silting
problems in the canals, partly due to both overflowing catch basins and faulty
bulkheads and that efforts to fix it are currently under way.

“Dredging
them is an option, but the big issue is disposal of that soil which is costly
and heavily regulated,” he said. “Now that we’ve identified the size of the
problem we need to identify the disposal area before we can proceed with
dredging those areas.” 

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