Boat Slip Plan Nears Approval

OCEAN CITY- Controversial plans to extend a pier and add eight new boat slips in a highly congested area of the Little Assawoman Bay appear to be heading for approval by the state’s Board of Public Works despite continued concerns raised by a neighboring homeowner’s association about increased danger on the waterway.

About two years ago, the Portofino townhouse community in a little sliver of Worcester County cut off from Ocean City by Delaware along the Little Assawoman Bay just south of the Fenwick Ditch applied for extension of its existing pier by a little over 250 feet and requested approval for the addition of 16 boat slips. Several local, state and federal agencies reviewed the request, and after considerable evaluation of possible environmental and public safety impacts, a compromise of sorts was reached allowing for the pier extension and the addition of eight new boats slips.

The Portofino community currently has 16 boat slips and requested 12 additional slips, which would bring its total to 28. The federal Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the plan as proposed from a navigational standpoint, but the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) asked Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) to review the potential navigation hazards before signing off on the proposal. NRP studied the congested area and determined eight new slips, and not the 12 requested, would be more appropriate.

Now, after two years of bouncing up and down the approval ladder, the proposal for eight new slips is expected to come before the Board of Public Works next month and final approval appears to be a done deal.

Meanwhile, the Montego Bay Civic Association continues the fight against the approval of the dock extension and boat slip addition at neighboring Portofino, pointing out the addition of a considerable amount of boat traffic to an already congested area. The main channel that serves Caine Woods and Montego Bay, two of the most densely populated in the resort, is shared with boat traffic from the Delaware through the Fenwick Ditch, creating a confluence of several canals and waterways in the area the project is proposed. According to Montego Bay Civic Association president Vera McCullough, the area is already an accident waiting to happen without the new slips.

“It’s the most incredibly highly used area on the water,” she said. “It’s like watching NASCAR and waiting for an accident.”

McCullough voiced frustration with the entire review and approval process.

“This has come in front of half a dozen agencies at least and each of them have signed off on it and pushed it up the chain,” she said. “As the largest homeowner’s association in the area, we haven’t been given the opportunity to comment on it and I don’t think Caine Woods has either.”

However, Board of Public Works Wetlands Adminstrator Doldon Moore said this week the project was carefully reviewed at every level and the final plan reflects changes made with the boating public’s safety in mind.

“The Natural Resources Police reviewed the plan and concurred the addition of the 12 requested slips would compromise public safety in the area, which is why the number was reduced to eight,” he said. “MDE is saying that’s all they’re going to get and that’s what the Board of Public Works will review next month.”