OCEAN CITY — The Army Corps of Engineers dredge boat Murden arrived in Ocean City last weekend for the semiannual dredging of the ebb shoals in and around the Inlet.
The Inlet continually fills in through natural and man-made processes and is often impassable by large-draw vessels, particularly during low tide. While the Inlet and other channels in and around the mouth of the commercial harbor naturally fill in and are in need of continual maintenance dredging, the problem has become more acute in recent years to the point it is now curtailing commercial and recreational activity out of Ocean City.
To that end, the Army Corps of Engineers last Friday sent its dredge boat Murden based out of the Corps’ Wilmington District in North Carolina to begin dredging near the Inlet at the Assateague Bypass. The project began last Saturday and the work is expected to continue for about a month.
The Murden is removing material in and around the Inlet channel with an emphasis on the ebb and flood shoals where sand is traditionally trapped during its natural southward flow toward Assateague. The Murden is expected to dredge roughly 35,000 to 40,000 cubic yards of material with a significant amount coming out of the navigation channel.
“We’d anticipate about 5,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of that material will be dredged from the navigation channel,” said Army Corps Corporate Communications Officer Chris Gardner this week. “Based on recent surveys, efforts in the channel will be on the area between buoys 11 and 12 near the Coast Guard dock and in the areas of buoys eight and 10, both of which are traditional shoaling hot spots.”
The dredged material will be placed south of the Inlet just off the north end of Assateague, serving the dual purpose of clearing the channels and nourishing the north end of the barrier island. The regularly scheduled Assateague bypass dredging is generally performed twice a year to assist with sediment transport across the Inlet south to Assateague, mitigating the effects caused by the Inlet and its jetties.
Meanwhile, the work performed by the Murden remains just a temporary fix in advance of a larger-scale project to dredge the Inlet to 14-16 feet. For the last several years, the Army Corps has worked with local, state and federal officials along with other stakeholders on the longer term plan to dredge the Inlet to a depth that would keep the channel open and eliminate the silting problem that often makes the channel impassable for even modest-sized commercial and recreational vessels.
The latest part of that effort is a regional sediment management study being done as part of the Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program Section 204 program. The Corps is in the early stages of the study and is currently developing a scope and path forward. The Corps anticipates the study being completed with a finalized recommendation in 2018.