Md. Approves Beach Replenishment Funds

ANNAPOLIS – With state funding for projects large and small under question given Maryland’s current financial crisis, it was uncertain if the Board of Public Works this week would approve the requested $203,000 latest installment in the state’s share of the ongoing Ocean City beach replenishment project, but the grant was approved without any wavering by the three-member panel on Wednesday.

The three-member Board of Public Works, made up of Gov. Martin O’Malley, State Comptroller Peter Franchot and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, on Wednesday approved millions of dollars worth of projects and grants throughout the state including a relatively modest state contribution of $203,000 to the Ocean City beach replenishment project. The latest installment from the state includes $94,000 for monitoring and another $109,000 for maintenance.

The next major phase of the ongoing effort to pump sand from offshore onto the beaches of Ocean City is set for 2010. Depending on several natural factors including the ferocity of storms and their impacts on beach erosion, roughly 800,000 cubic yards of sand are pumped onto the Ocean City beach every four years. The beach replenishment project began in 1991 and expected to continue for 37 more years until 2044.

It is funded through a partnership between federal, state and local governments, which each provide matching funding to sustain the replenishment project. The latest state installment approved by the Board of Public Works on Wednesday will be used to monitor beach erosion and fund routine maintenance work between major phases every four years.

While the funding stream for beach replenishment in Ocean City has not been interrupted, despite projected cuts in state funding across the board, one issue still unresolved is where the sand pumped onto the beach will come from in the future. In August, the Army Corps of Engineers projected the identified sources of sand offshore have been nearly depleted and an effort is now underway to identify and secure new sources of offshore sand to supply the project. The Army Corps has said the current sources of offshore sand for the project could be exhausted before the next major phase in 2010.

To that end, the Corps has identified several new sources of sand from the shoals off the coast of the resort that could supply dredged material for the life of the project, but some of the identified sources lie within fertile fishing grounds within 10 miles of the coast. The public comment period for the new sources closed at the end of August and Army Corps of Engineers officials are now preparing to make a final determination.