Friday, November 21–Major Channel Dredging Project Could Solidify Beach

OCEAN CITY – A significant dredging project of the main channel in the Isle of Wight Bay behind Ocean City, including depositing the dredged material on the beach at 33rd Street, is in the works and the deadline for public comment on the proposal is quickly approaching.

Late last month, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a public notice on its intent to perform maintenance dredging of the federal navigation channel in the Isle of Wight Bay extending northward from an area just north of 8th Street to around 33rd Street, pending the availability of funds for the project. The Army Corps is seeking public comment on the project before moving forward, but the deadline to weigh in on the plan expires on Monday.

Currently, the channel is authorized to a depth of six feet and a width of 125 feet from the Inlet to a point just north of 8th Street, then a width of 75 feet into Isle of Wight Bay. Natural functions of the transient barrier island system has caused the channel to silt in over time, forcing the Army Corps to perform maintenance dredging in the area.

According to the scope of the plan, material will be removed to the project depth of six feet plus two feet of allowable over-depth in the area just north of 8th Street to around 33rd Street. Approximately 14,000 cubic yards of material consisting primarily of fine grain sand are to be hydraulically dredged and placed on the beach at 33rd Street.

In advance of the public notice, the Army Corps has conducted a cursory review of potential impacts. A review of the data generated in advance of the required Environmental Assessment for the project indicates that no significant environmental impacts are expected and that the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not warranted. Nonetheless, National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) documentation addressing the environmental issues of the dredging and placement operation is being prepared.

A preliminary review of the project, along with evaluations of similar dredging projects in Isle of Wight Bay in the past, indicate the proposed work will not adversely affect endangered or threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act, or their critical habitats, will not be adversely affected by the scale and scope of the project. The preliminary review also concluded the project as proposed complies with the Maryland Coastal Zone Management Program and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

However, as the evaluation of the project continues, additional information may come to light that could change the preliminary determination. To that end, the Army Corps has opened a public comment period to allow individuals or groups with an interest in the project and the area it intends to encompass to weigh in on the proposal.

“The decision whether to accomplish the work proposed in the public notice will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact of the proposed work on the public interest,” the Army Corps’ public notice reads. “Information may become available which could change the preliminary determination. The benefit which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against the reasonably foreseeable detriments.”

Public comments on the designation of the proposed spoil site on the beach at 33rd Street will also be taken into consideration. If, for some reason, the proposed spoil site on 33rd Street is deemed unsuitable after public comments are reviewed, the project could be pushed back to allow another site to be identified. Questions regarding the public notice should be directed to the Army Corps’ field office at 410-962-6068.