Dredging Questions Remain

SNOW HILL – Dredging operations will displace one fisherman from a slip at the West Ocean City Harbor, the county decided this week.

The Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge the Ocean City Inlet to the West Ocean City Harbor and the harbor turning basins needs somewhere to offload the dredge spoil, said Public Works Director John Tustin.

The county will use commercial slip number seven for a few months this fall to unload the dredge material. The leases at the harbor are up for re-bid this year. Staff suggested delaying the lease start date for slip seven.

Commissioner Louise Gulyas was against the use of the boat slip for unloading spoil. She suggested the Corps use the governor’s dock. The Corps’ vessels must get right up to the bulkhead to unload, Tustin said. The governor’s dock is also already used by the U. S. Navy out of Wallops Island.

“The problem is the fishing industry is in big trouble now,” said Gulyas. “To take something away from a commercial person, however long, I don’t think this is right.”

Commissioner Bobby Cowger said he is concerned about the amount of truck traffic the dredging project will generate. He estimated that at 24,000 yards of dredge material, it would take 2,000 truckloads to remove the spoil, about 4,000 truck trips through the area.

“You’re really talking about a mess in that area,” said Cowger, referring to spillage needing clean up. “I don’t know if you want that kind of activity.”

At this point, the county has not decided on a destination for the dredge spoil, a matter which came up several weeks ago.

“They have not identified a final site yet,” said Tustin.     

“Dredge disposal is really, really a challenge in Worcester County,” said Natural Resource Administrator Chris McCabe.

A lot of the vessels using the West Ocean City Harbor need the deeper water the dredging will restore, McCabe said, but the old spoil site is now Sunset Marina.

Sending the material to the landfill, which is 21 miles away, is more costly than disposing of the spoil nearby. The dredge material will not be pure sand, but will contain a high proportion of organic material, precluding disposal on Assateague Island beaches. The county also considered dumping the spoil at Skimmer Island, but felt that there would be too much boat traffic.

The commissioners voted 5 to 2 to use slip seven at the West Ocean City Harbor to offload dredge spoil. Gulyas and Cowger voted against the motion.