University To Study Ocean City Drainage

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City has a serious flooding problem that could cost millions of dollars to rectify, resort business owners learned this week during a presentation from a University of Maryland researcher heading up a study of the town’s aging stormwater management infrastructure over the next several months.

Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC) members heard a presentation from Joanne Throwe, a researcher with the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, about the resort’s aging stormwater infrastructure and its impacts on flooding and the local waterways. The University of Maryland’s environmental finance center is sponsored in large part by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is one of 10 similar agencies set up at universities and colleges across the country to conduct regional research on growing stormwater management issues around the country.

The University of Maryland was chosen for the mid-Atlantic region and the focus of its program is on Ocean City, where the juxtaposition of intense urban development next to fragile natural resources makes the resort a natural fit for the study. 
“Stormwater management is a very important issue for Ocean City,” she said. “Run-off from all of this impervious surface goes right into the sewers and ditches and ultimately right into the coastal bays. All of these pollutants, oils, trash, pet waste and metals go right into the bays and then directly into the ocean.”

Throwe said her group will spend the next several months exploring Ocean City’s stormwater runoff issues and develop a series of short- and long-term solutions. Perhaps more importantly, the group will explore ways to fund the improvements identified in their study.

“Ocean City has no dedicated funding source for stormwater management,” she said. “Some projects have been paid for piece-meal over the years, but it appears the system needs a complete overhaul. The good news is, depending on what we find out, there could be federal funding in the form of grants for some of these projects.”

Throwe said the early phases of the study indicate Ocean City has about 82,000 linear feet of aging corrugated metal pipe in its stormwater management system that will likely need to be replaced at some point in the future.

“We expect to have a full report prepared in about a year, at which point we will present a series of recommendations to the Mayor and Council,” she said. “It will be up to the council to decide how to act on those recommendations.”