OCEAN CITY — Despite its dark, coarse appearance, the thousands of cubic yards of nearly black sand being dredged and pumped onto the beach at the Inlet this spring will naturally bleach out in the sun before the arrival of summer crowds.
The Army Corps of Engineers last week began dredging federal channel around the Inlet as part of a larger project the agency has been working on through much of the winter. The massive project is part of the Army Corps’ routine maintenance of the federal navigation channels throughout the resort area.
The channels silt in over time through natural and man-made processes and need to be routinely dredged to a depth and width to support the area’s commercial and recreational fishing and boating industries. The required dredging serves the dual purpose of maintaining the channels to the appropriate depth and width while delivering material to sand-starved migratory islands and beaches in and around the resort area.
Roughly 61,000 cubic yards of sand are being pumped from the dredged federal channel just south of the Inlet and are being pumped onto the beach near the Inlet. The dredged material primarily consists of medium to coarse sand with a striking dark color. As the dredged material was pumped onto the beach via a large pipe last weekend, a crowd of curiosity seekers gathered to watch the spectacle and more than a few voiced concern about the dark, nearly black color of the new sand on the beach.
However, Ocean City officials reiterated the nearly black sand will be spread out and the sun will eventually bleach it out to the fine, white sand beachgoers in Ocean City are accustomed to.
“The material has been tested and it is all sand and will bleach out,” said City Engineer Terry McGean on Monday. “In fact, if you go down there you can see that is has already started.”
The section being dredged this week just south of the Inlet is part of a larger federal project for the navigation channels in the Sinepuxent and Isle of Wight Bays. The work is essentially divided into four main sections and the section being worked on this week will pump about 61,000 cubic yards of dredged material onto the Inlet beach. Other segments have delivered hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand to historic islands around the bays important to migratory birds that have nearly disappeared over the years.
The Isle of Wight Bay channel will be dredged from the Inlet to a point opposite 8th Street in Ocean City. The channel is authorized to a depth of six feet and a width of 125 feet from the Inlet to 8th Street and then a width of 75 feet into the Isle of Wight Bay. Roughly 18,000 cubic yards of material consisting largely of fine-grain sand will be hydraulically dredged from the channel and pumped on to the Dog and Bitch Islands near the Thorofare to increase and enhance migratory bird habitats on the island.
The Sinepuxent Bay channel will be dredged from the head of the commercial harbor in West Ocean City to Green Point, just north of South Point near Assateague. The Sinepuxent Bay channel will also be dredged to a depth of six feet and a width of 150 feet near the harbor to 100 feet further south to Green Point. Roughly 418,000 cubic yards of material will be hydraulically dredged and the dredge spoils will be deposited at four different locations in and around the coastal bays.
Section 1 contains approximately 245,000 cubic yards of dredged sand that will be placed in the vicinity of Robin’s Marsh. The roughly 55,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from Section 2 will be placed unconfined in the vicinity of an historic island near Green Point and will also be used to enhance and increase migratory bird habitat.
Roughly 57,000 cubic yards of sand and silt dredged from Section 3 will be placed on a historic but deteriorating island near Green Point and will also be used for migratory bird habitat. The project will be managed and fully funded at 100 percent by the Army Corps because they are federal channels. Roughly $6 million was allocated for the project from the federal Disaster Relief Appropriation Act of 2013. McGean said this week the segment currently dredging the channel south of the Inlet will go on for roughly another three weeks.