WEST OCEAN CITY — The long-awaited federal Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging of the commercial harbor in West Ocean City is expected to get underway any day now after a long public input and approval process.
“The contract has been awarded and the contractor only needs the Notice to Proceed, which should be coming any time now,” said Army Corps Project Manager Bob Blama. “They will probably begin dredging in late October or early November.”
The federal project calls for dredging the commercial harbor to a depth of 10 feet, plus an additional two feet of allowable over-depth, for the roughly 150-foot-wide harbor basin, which silts in with tidal changes and other natural factors and frequently needs maintenance. The plan calls for dredging anywhere from 31,000 to 52,000 cubic yards of material, made up largely of sand, silt, gravel and shells, and depositing it onto an area of a parking lot set aside for the project.
From there, the thousands of cubic yards of dredged material will be loaded into sealed, watertight trucks for transport to the Worcester County landfill in Newark, some 20 miles away.
Similar maintenance dredging projects in the past have deposited the spoils on designated upland areas or on the beaches of Assateague or even Ocean City, but the make-up of the material dredged from the bottom of the commercial harbor is not compatible with the beaches. Instead, the plan calls for trucking the dredged material to Newark.
The project is estimated to cost between $250,000 and $500,000, which will be paid for by the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers. Last year, the County Commissioners somewhat reluctantly approved the project, with most of the elected officials’ heartburn surrounding the transportation of the dredged material through the congested north end of the county along Routes 50 and 113. The commissioners estimated at the time the effort would include about 2,000 truckloads, or roughly 4,000 truck trips including back and forth trips from the harbor to the landfill.
The commissioners also voiced concern about the proposed use of one of the county-owned boat slips at the harbor to facilitate the project. According to the plan, commercial boat slip number 7 will have to be used for a few months during the length of the project as a staging area for the trucks transporting the dredged material.