OCEAN CITY — Cleanup of the “Friday the 13th” storm began seemingly as soon as the sunshine broke through in Ocean City on Sunday morning, and it appears that it won’t be fully completed for several months, according to town officials.
Mayor Rick Meehan said that the town would have been “in a bit of jeopardy” if not for the dune system that has grown naturally since the inception of the beach replenishment program in 1994. He also noted, that as quickly as the town braced for the storm, it was up and running again on Sunday.
“It was a beautiful day on Sunday and as I was riding my bike on the Boardwalk it seemed like business as usual up there,” said Meehan. “Other than a good bit of sand on the Boardwalk, the shops were open and it was like it was just another day.”
Simultaneous to the hustling Boardwalk that Meehan described however, were the Department of Public Works crews moving the gigantic piles of sand that had accumulated in the Inlet Parking Lot, as were plans to restore the look of the severely eroded coastline.
”[Restoring the dune] will require dredging and we are somewhat fortunate in that we had a planned dredge project for 2010,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “We will work with the [Army] Corps [of Engineers] to adjust project quantities to reflect the storm damage and would hope to begin dredging in the spring.”
McGean said that there is now a large sandbar that has appeared just off the coast of Ocean City, and he noted that its appearance is a good sign as far as getting some of the lost sand back.
“That sandbar means that the lost sand is still in the system, so there’s a pretty good chance that we will get some of it back over the next few months,” he said.
As per the agreement between the town, Worcester County and the state of Maryland back in 1994 as part of the Atlantic Coast of Maryland Storm Protection Project, the town had set aside $500,000 in the budget for this spring’s scheduled beach replenishment, but the project will more than likely have an additional price tag due to the cleanup of the storm.
City Manager Dennis Dare said that it has yet to be determined if the town would have to pay additional money for the cleanup process, as the town could get some federal relief money for the restoration.
“Basically, the split is that the town puts in 25 percent of our share, the county does the same and the state puts in 50 percent,” said Dare. “As I recall, we didn’t have to put money into it last year as there was apparently enough funds in there, but this year, the scheduled project will probably have to be amended a little bit, but we don’t know what the numbers are going to be yet.”
McGean said that over the next week the town would meet again with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Natural Resources to assess the full extent of the damages and put in place a recovery plan.
According to the beach replenishment plan, the Army Corps of Engineers manages all the necessary dredging and replenishment operations and pays half of the cost and they upkeep the dune system as well.
Meehan said that the project, which has had its share of naysayers in the past, proved its worth during the storm.
“You can’t take for granted the vital importance of the beach replenishment program as it is worth every single penny,” said Meehan. “We have $10.5 billion worth of property to protect and to my knowledge there was very little if any damage to local properties.”
Dare agreed, saying, “The dune saved the town a lot of money. Before [the beach replenishment project], a storm like this would have pushed sand on every beach block, and we’d still be trying to clean it up and we would have probably needed the State Highway Administration’s help, so it is nice when a plan works out the way it’s supposed to.”