WEST OCEAN CITY – An extensive rehabilitation of the public boat ramp at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City, a project that could close the facility through much of the spring, is expected to begin in earnest next week after the County Commissioners this week signed the maintenance agreement with the contractor.
The West Ocean City boat ramp rehabilitation project was expected to begin this week, but the contractor, Hi-Tide Marine, was awaiting formal approval on the contract from the commissioners before getting started. The roughly $450,000 project, which will be paid for with a combination of state and federal funding, is expected to take as long as four months, although it could be expedited depending on a variety of factors.
“The original plan was to get started this week, but the contractor naturally wanted the contract signed by the commissioners before undertaking the first phases of the work,” said Worcester County Public Works Maintenance Supervisor Gerald Richardson this week. “The commissioners signed the agreement on Tuesday and the contractor is expected to get started next week.”
The project includes taking out the existing boat ramp and replacing it with a new six-lane facility complete with a supporting bulkhead, fixed piers and floating docks. The contract calls for a 120- day completion date, although the hope is for an expedited schedule.
“April is a busy month around here for us,” said Richardson. “They [the contractor] are aware of the need to get it finished as quickly as possible and we’re hoping in comes in much earlier than that target date.”
Meanwhile, Greg Hall of Maryland Coast Towing, whose operation is based out of the foot of the commercial harbor in the area of the boat ramp, agreed an expedited completion date is crucial to the amount of activity in and around the boat ramp each day.
“Everybody around here is a little concerned about the length of the project,” he said. “If we get into April or May, that could put a real damper on the boating activity. A lot of people rely on that ramp on a day in, day out basis. It really is vital and I understand the need for repairs, but I just hope they get in and out of there as quickly as possible.”
Hall said he is already preparing for more and more calls for boat towing during the rehabilitation project.
“I guess the next closest public ramp is at Assateague, and a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the area could end up stuck on the shoals and sandbars down around there,” he said.
Hall, director of the Ocean City Reef Foundation, is hoping some of the material discarded during the project can be utilized on the artificial reefs off the coast. The boat ramp itself is concrete and many of the pilings around the facility are set in concrete.
The project calls for constructing coffer dams around the existing ramp and pumping the water out to facilitate pouring new concrete for the structure. Hall holds out hope some of the old concrete can be sunk on the artificial reef system off the coast.
“That really would be the perfect use for it,” he said. “It’s cheaper and more efficient than hauling it to the landfill.”
Meanwhile, despite difficult weather conditions, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has been busy this winter with two significant additions to the reef system in the last few weeks. On New Year’s Eve, a 78-foot commercial trawler was sunk on the Susan Powers Reef near the Jackspot. On Jan. 6, the Reef Foundation sunk a 50-foot retired Baltimore water taxi on a site near the Bass Grounds in an area dedicated as the “Jimmy Jackson Reef,” named for a beloved local angler who lost his life in a diving accident last spring.