Emergency Beach Replenishment Project Expected In Ocean City

Emergency

OCEAN CITY — The resort beach, still slowly recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy last fall and other strong storms throughout the winter, will be getting a much needed boost after the Army Corps of Engineers this week released a pre-solicitation notice for an extensive re-nourishment project that will ultimately pump a million cubic yards of sand onto the barrier island.

During Hurricane Sandy in late October, the Ocean City beaches took a huge hit with severe erosion and the destruction of much of the face of the extensive protective dune system. Some of the erosion has been corrected by natural processes over the course of the winter, but evidence of the storm still exists in many places, particularly in traditional narrow portions of the strand.

Almost immediately after the storm passed, Army Corps of Engineers officials out of the Baltimore District arrived in Ocean City to assess the damage and began to make determinations about what action would be needed to restore the damaged beaches.

The key element of the upcoming project consists of using an offshore, ocean-going hopper to hydraulically dredge one million cubic yards of sand and pump it onto the Ocean City shoreline in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and for periodic shoreline maintenance. The sand is expected to be pumped from a designated borrow area roughly two to three miles off the coast of the resort and will be used to help replace the beach and the dune system.

The eventual contract will also include the reconstruction or repair of the vast dune system that stretches from the northern end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line. Also included in the future contract is providing and planting of dune grass and providing and installing rope fencing.

It remains uncertain when the project will go out to bid and it appears unlikely the extensive replenishment project will be undertaken before the upcoming summer season. According to the Corps’ pre-solicitation notice, the project will require a large amount of beach-fill in a relatively short window of time. The eventual contract duration will be approximately 210 days from start to finish and the wide cost range for the project is estimated at anywhere from $10 million to $25 million.

Ocean City Engineer Terry McGean said he had just seen the drawings presented by the Corps this week and was not certain of the timetable for the bidding and the eventual start for the project.

“It would have to be next fall at the earliest,” he said. “I don’t know at this point the volume of the project or where they would start or what direction they would take. It’s still pretty fresh and it’s way too early to determine that.”

McGean said the hope is to coordinate the emergency replenishment needed to repair the damages from Hurricane Sandy with the normally scheduled Ocean City beach replenishment project. Beach replenishment began in Ocean City in 1994 through a 50-year agreement with the town, Worcester County and the state of Maryland partnering with the federal Army Corps of Engineers, which provides over 50 percent of the funding for the massive undertaking.

The Ocean City beach is routinely replenished every four years with periodic emergency projects as needed. The next regularly scheduled replenishment project is set for 2014, but McGean said the hope is to coordinate the emergency repairs needed for the Sandy damage with the regular replenishment cycle.

“I spoke to the Corps this week and they have the funding in place for the Sandy repairs and they’re hoping to get the funding approved for the regular project in 2014,” he said. “The hope is to pull it together so they don’t have to do the Sandy project next fall and come back in 2014 for the regular replenishment project.”