OCEAN CITY – Damaged portions of the beach are about to get new life, as the familiar pipes and equipment associated with beach replenishment have returned.
The town of Ocean City, the state of Maryland and Worcester County have a 50-year contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to perform periodic beach nourishment as needed to maintain adequate storm protection. They all share the costs of the project and the Army Corps of Engineers designs and manages the needed nourishment and dredging operations.
This year’s estimated cost for the project is $9 million. The damage caused by this past fall’s Nor’easter is about $3.5 million but also prevented $18 million in damages, according to the city. Since the project began in 1988, a total of $100 million has been spent, including this year’s budget, but has also reportedly prevented a total of $265 million in damages.
“The purpose of it is storm protection,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “The dune and seawall work together to form a barrier protecting the property behind them from storm damage due to ocean flooding and wave energy. The idea is to sacrifice sand instead of buildings”.
The replenishment was planned to start at the beginning of this week, but due to weather and choppy seas the latest plan as of yesterday was to kick off the pumping on Saturday.
It will begin on 135th Street and move north toward the Delaware state line. Then the sand pumping will flip over and move south. A maximum of three blocks will be closed at a time for three days. Crews will be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The goal is to complete the project by the end November.
“The sand is excavated from the ocean bottom about four miles off shore from what is called the ‘borrow area,’” McGean said. “The dredge uses what amounts to a giant vacuum to suck up a sand and water mix and pump it into the dredge hopper. The dredge then moves closer to shore to a pump out station and pumps the material onto the beach. The material that comes out of the pipe looks like muddy water but is really a mix of sand and water. As this mix comes out of the pipe and runs down the beach, the sand settles out. Then the sand is shaped using earth moving equipment”.
This process also takes a lot of analysis including the grain of the sand. If the grain is too big, the beach will be too rough like gravel. If the grain of the sand is too small, the easier it will wash away.
Ocean City’s town website posts daily updates on what areas are being worked on during the week, are closed and has been completed.