Fed Bill Includes Assateague Funds

ASSATEAGUE — The U.S. Congress this week passed a federal spending plan that includes over $70 million in investments in Maryland waterway projects including a handful on the Lower Shore and across the Eastern Shore.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced this week the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 includes $70.3 million for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Maryland. The bill was passed by the House and Senate and now heads toward final approval by the president.

“These investments in Maryland’s waterways create and sustain private sector jobs,” said Mikulski this week. “This federal investment in the lives and livelihoods of those who depend on clean and open waterways will keep businesses open and keep Marylanders working.”

The lion’s share of the expected federal investment in waterway projects will go to a handful of major endeavors including nearly $24 million for the annual dredging of the Port of Baltimore’s shipping channels and another $22 million for the annual maintenance dredging of the C&D Canal. However, the federal funds will be disbursed to a handful of projects on the Lower Shore.

For example, the spending plan includes $900,000 for Assateague Island to prevent and repair island erosion caused by the Ocean City jetties. The beaches in Ocean City are routinely replenished through a long standing federal, state and local partnership, but no firm plan is in place to restore Assateague.

The stone jetties at the Inlet in Ocean City help restore and retain the wide beaches in the resort often at the expense of sand-starved Assateague, which would be replenished by natural processes without the Inlet jetties. The federal funding plan includes $900,000 to help restore the beaches on the barrier island.

Another project of note locally to be funded with the federal waterways appropriation is $1.5 million for the Wicomico River for the maintenance dredging up the upper river channels where the Port of Salisbury is located. Salisbury is the second largest port in Maryland handling petroleum products and grain. The waterway also supports barge traffic crucial to maintaining adequate fuel supplies for the Delmarva Peninsula.

The federal spending plan also includes $2.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Project, which will use the funds to continue to develop new oyster habitat in the Choptank River in a permanent sanctuary designated by the DNR.