OCEAN CITY – Locals and visitors alike are being offered to weigh in on a proposal to dredge the channel and boat basin in front of the Coast Guard Station in Ocean City with a public comment period that opened last week and concludes on January 20.
The Coast Guard has requested the Army Corps of Engineers’ approval to perform maintenance dredging as needed for the next 10 years within an area approximately 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in the vicinity of its station at the foot of Somerset Street and the bay. The Coast Guard is asking for permission to dredge its boat basin to a depth of 10 feet below the mean low water line. The purpose of the proposed project is to maintain navigable access.
Should the project be approved, the Coast Guard would be able to dredge the boat basin and channel and deposit the estimated 1,700 to 2,500 cubic yards of dredge spoil, which would be largely comprised of sandy material, either on an upland non-wetland disposal area or another Army Corps-approved site. The public notice did not include any specifics about possible dredge spoil deposit sites.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires all federal agencies to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) before undertaking any dredging activity in areas described as essential fish habitat. As such, the dredge project proposed by the Coast Guard would have to be signed off on by NMFS.
“The proposed maintenance dredging has the potential to adversely affect essential fish habitat or species of concern by loss of spawning, nursery, forage and or shelter habitat,” the notice reads. “The project may have an adverse effect on approximately 20,000 square feet of essential fish habitat as described under Magnuson-Stevens. This habitat consists of sandy sub-tidal substrate which does not currently support submerged aquatic vegetation.”
According to the public notice, the decision whether or not to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts of the proposed dredging project. In a sense, the final decision will be based on concerns for both the protection and utilization of important resources.
“The benefit which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments,” the notice reads. “The District Engineer has made a preliminary determination that site-specific impacts would not be substantial, and an abbreviated consultation will be conducted with NMFS.”