Ocean City Formalizes Need For Fed Funds In Letter To Senate

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials this week made a pitch for continued federal funding for a variety of ongoing projects around the resort, including beach replenishment and the dredging of the Inlet and commercial harbor.

The Mayor and Council on Monday approved sending a letter to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), seeking support for the maritime projects through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that funds various Army Corps of Engineers projects including beach replenishment and navigation dredging.

Cardin is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is seeking a prioritized list from jurisdictions on funding requests for Army Corps projects by Feb. 12. Through the letter to Cardin, Ocean City is seeking continued funding for beach replenishment, the deepening of the Inlet and commercial harbor channels, maintaining existing federal channels in the bays and continuing to deposit dredge spoil on Assateague to enhance the shoreline on the deteriorating barrier island.

City Engineer Terry McGean requested approval on Monday to send the letter to the Senate committee that holds the purse strings on Army Corps of Engineers projects.

“This is federal legislation that authorizes a lot of the Corps project so critical to Ocean City,” he said. “We added the Assateague Island restoration project because being able to deposit dredged material there is so important to keeping the Inlet open.”

Paramount for Ocean City is the continued federal funding for beach replenishment. The Army Corps of Engineers replenishes the beaches in Ocean City every four years, along with emergency repairs when necessary, through a federal, state and local partnership. The federal government provides the lion’s share of the funding at around 50 percent. For example, the total current allocation is nearly $268 million, of which the federal government pays $146 million. Roughly $47 million has been allocated through 2013, leaving a balance of $98 million. The life of the project extends to 2044.

“… this project has successfully protected the lives, property and economy of Ocean City and prevented over $700 million in storm damages since its completion,” the town’s letter to Cardin approved this week reads. “The project is cost-shared by the Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Maryland, Worcester County and Ocean City. The continued funding of the federal cost share for this project is essential.”

No less important is the continued dredging of the Inlet and commercial harbor channels. The Inlet continues to silt in, requiring frequent maintenance dredging and federal, state and local partners are seeking a longer-term solution. The Inlet is currently authorized to be dredged to a depth of 10 feet, which has been deemed too shallow to accommodate many of the commercial vessels, forcing some to leave for different ports.

“These channels are vital for the commercial and recreational fishing industries of Ocean City and Worcester County,” the letter reads. “The current authorized depth is 10 feet and is inadequate to accommodate the local commercial vessels that draw up to 13 feet.”

The letter addresses each of the four projects for which continued funding is being sought.

“Each of these projects are to maintain or enhance previously funded Army Corps of Engineers initiatives,” the letter reads. “The Ocean City Mayor and Council are fully committed to continuing our partnership in these endeavors and hope that the WRDA legislation will enable the Army Corps of Engineers to lead these efforts.”

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