OCEAN CITY — The federal government and the state of Maryland last week signed a two-year cooperative agreement to fund an evaluation of sand resources off the coast of the resort for future beach replenishment and coastal resilience planning.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agreed to share the cost of the $200,000 project, which will evaluate sand resources off the coast for coastal resilience and restoration planning. The agreement will help BOEM and Maryland conduct research to identify future offshore shoals needed for beach replenishment and other needs onshore.
The intent is to assist coastal communities in Maryland, including Ocean City and Assateague, for example, in recovering from major storms, like Hurricane Sandy, for example. The identified sand sources will be used in the future to restore habitat, increase knowledge of the ocean bottom and contribute to long-term coastal resilience planning efforts.
Under the agreement, the Maryland Geological Survey department of the DNR will evaluate and consolidate its 30 years of offshore data to create seafloor classification maps. The maps will identify and locate potential areas of sand resources as well as benthic habitat. The overall goal is to have readily available geologic and benthic habitat resources available for planners and managers.
“This agreement demonstrates BOEM’s commitment to work with Maryland to help coastal communities recover from Hurricane Sandy and enhance resilience efforts for the future,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “We are committed to continuing to work in a collaborative manner to help local communities withstand damage from future storms.”
The project announced last week continues the collaborative effort between state and federal agencies to locate and identify offshore sand resources that began in 1992.
“We sincerely thank President Obama and BOEM for supporting Maryland’s continuous efforts to protect coastal resources vital to our state’s safety, environmental health and economic prosperity,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill. “This funding will protect our citizens and visitors from future storms, prevent damage to sensitive ecological areas and help us better understand and respond to coastal threats.”
BOEM scientists will assist Maryland in identifying areas to study for future geophysical and geological surveys with the purpose of confirming previously identified resources and locating new potential sand resources. BOEM will also help Maryland develop tools to more readily share sand resource data with other agencies involved in coastal resilience planning.
Such activities are essential for reducing potential storm damage to the residents, economies and infrastructure of Maryland’s coastal communities, including Ocean City and Assateague. Research funded under the agreement will help ensure activities including offshore dredging and beach nourishment are conducted in a sustainable manner that is compatible with natural sediment transport and biological processes as well as stakeholder interests.
BOEM’s agreement with Maryland announced last week is part of a series of partnerships with other coastal Atlantic states using part of the $13.6 million allocated to the federal agency through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The research will help identify sand and gravel resources that are appropriate for coastal protection and restoration along the entire Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. For example, a similar agreement was reached with neighboring Delaware in late May.
Since Sandy, BOEM has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other members of the federal government’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, state coastal planning agencies, state geological survey and other entities to analyze the needs for coastal restoration and to develop restoration plans. The state and federal partnership will likely identify offshore sand resources to supply Ocean City’s beach replenishment projects in the future.
Ocean City’s latest beach replenishment project wrapped up in mid-May with tons of sand pumped from offshore to restore and maintain the resort’s beaches and protective dune network. The project was conducted as part of the regular four-year cycle. The Ocean City beaches are routinely replenished every four years with periodic emergency projects as needed following storms and other natural events.
Beach replenishment began in Ocean City in 1994 through a 50-year agreement with the town, Worcester County and the state of Maryland partnering with the federal Army Corps of Engineers, which provides over 50 percent of the funding for the massive undertaking.
The beach replenishment program is critical to the protection of Ocean City and its valuable resources from flooding from tropical storms, hurricanes and nor’easters. To date, the project is credited for preventing an estimated $600 million in storm-related damages.