West OC Harbor Dredging Project Gets Underway

WEST OCEAN CITY — The federal Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging of the commercial harbor in West Ocean City continued in earnest this week with truckloads of mucky silt being transported to a retired surface mine site in the central part of Worcester County.

The project includes dredging the commercial harbor in West Ocean City to a depth of 10 feet, plus an additional two feet of allowable over-depth, for the roughly 150-foot wide harbor basin, which silts in over time with tidal changes and other natural processes and frequently needs maintenance. The plan calls for dredging anywhere from 31,000 to 52,000 cubic yards of material, made up largely of sand, silt, gravel and shells and depositing it into huge storage barges situated near the foot of the harbor.

From there, the thousands of cubic yards of dredged material is being loaded into sealed, watertight trucks for transport to the county’s surface mine site on Langmaid Rd. near Newark. Throughout the week, large equipment could be seen scooping the dredged material from the storage barges and loading it onto the waiting trucks, which left and returned at returned at regular intervals.

The route for the thousands of truckloads of dredge spoil removed from the harbor’s floor heads west on Route 50 before heading south on Route 113. Similar maintenance dredging projects in the past have deposited the spoils on designated upland areas or on the beaches of Assateague or even Ocean City, but the make-up of the material dredged from the bottom of the commercial harbor is not compatible with the beaches.

Last year, the Worcester County Commissioners somewhat reluctantly approved the project after voicing concern about the amount of heavy truck traffic through the north end of the county. The commissioners estimated at the time the effort would include about 2,000 truckloads, or 4,000 roundtrips from the harbor to the surface mine site and back. However, the truck traffic has not been an issue early on in the project.

“They just started about a week ago, but thus far, things are going along great,” said Army Corps project manager Bob Blama this week. “They had a few weather issues early on, but they’re cruising right now with the weather we’ve had recently.”

Blama said this week the project will likely take about six weeks, depending on a variety of natural and man-made factors.

“It’s such a weather-dependent time of year,” he said. “We know we’re going to probably get some bad weather and we’ve got the holidays mixed in, but the contractor expects to be finished around the end of January or early February.”