Emergency Beach Repairs Slated To Begin Soon

OCEAN CITY — As one major storm passed over the town of Ocean City last weekend, resort officials were putting the finishing touches on plans to clean up the damage left behind from last month’s storm that hit Ocean City square in the face.

The first part of the emergency beach replenishment project will commence the first week of 2010, as town officials plan for the larger portions of the massive project to clean up the aftermath of last month’s Nor’Ida storm, which ravaged the resort beach and dune, reportedly damaging or displacing over 600,000 cubic yards of sand.

City Engineer Terry McGean said this week that the bid for the first part of the beach replenishment project, which will entail moving excess sand in some areas of the beach to areas of the beach that were hardest hit during the Friday the 13th storm, will be awarded on Dec. 28 and the project is set to start sometime in early January.

“Once we award the bid, the crews will commence with tearing down pretty much all of the fencing that lies in front of the dunes so we can get in there and work on them,” said McGean. “Then we will be trucking portions of extra sand in some areas to parts of the dune that were badly damaged and depleted by the storm.”

McGean says that the hardest hit portion of the beach and dune system is 139th to 146th streets in uptown Ocean City, and he noted that large loads of sand, presumably to be taken from the downtown and midtown streets (near the Boardwalk and 60th Street), will be moved to compensate for the loss of sand on the stretch of beach known as “condo row”, amongst several other streets such as 33rd Street and between 70th-80th streets.

McGean noted that the first phase of the project, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million (paid for with money saved in the Beach Maintenance Fund) is only the beginning.

“The actual replenishment part of the project, which will be putting tons of new sand onto our beaches will not be getting underway until at least the spring, and we are waiting on the Army Corps of Engineers for the final plans on that portion of the project,” said McGean. “We will also be dredging the sand that was pulled out to sea that has created a large sand dune in the shallow waters sometime in May if all goes well.”

The entirety of the project, according to the Army Corps of Engineers in the weeks that followed last month’s three-day storm, is projected to cost almost $10 million when all is said and done sometime next summer, but McGean says that this first portion of the project should be completed in “about 75 days.”

McGean said that Ocean City was spared a bit this past weekend, however, as the blizzard that blanketed many portions of the Mid-Atlantic region under copious amounts of snow, essentially left little to no damage to the already depleted beach and dune system.

“We fared pretty well, and as far as I know, the beach is in no worse shape after this storm than what it was prior to the storm,” said McGean. “The storm moved through very quickly and the tides weren’t nearly as high as what they were during last month’s storm. It also helped us that we only got one day of a storm rather than three days in a row.”

The scheduled beach replenishment project that was originally slated for May was projected to cost almost $11 million. Now, with almost $10 million in emergency maintenance costs looming, getting Ocean City’s beach and invaluable dune system back to where it was is of the highest priority to the town, despite the high price.

“Once we get the dune repaired, we will probably wait to replace the fencing until the entirety of the replenishment is completed,” said McGean. “We think we can really make a difference by essentially moving the sand that was blown all over town to the hardest hit places on the beach and the dune even before the replenishment portion of the project.”

The beach replenishment project, which was started in 1991 as a way to protect Ocean City from catastrophic storm damage and debilitating beach erosion similar to the 1933 storm that famously broke Assateague Island and Ocean City apart, the infamous 1962 storm and Hurricane Gloria in 1985, has reportedly cost Maryland taxpayers over $100 million since its inception. However, it has reportedly saved an estimated $238 million in assessable properties from storm damage.