A study period of five years is reportedly needed before any major and long-term solution is found for the chronic Inlet shoaling problem.
While that news surely brings angst to those who make their living on the navigable waters around this area, it’s understandable because the fix is not a simple one. Additionally, it’s going to cost a lot of money.
At a meeting last week, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers outlined the process moving forward with the Inlet. Everyone agrees the shoaling has become a major issue in need of addressing beyond the periodic dredging aimed at temporarily improving navigation. Officials outlined a three-year feasibility phase would allow for thorough study of the situation followed by a two-year process to carry out the design and construction recommendations suggested by the study.
In the meantime, short-term dredging throughout the year – estimated at about $389,000 annually – will need to take place to ensure boats can get through the Inlet. Horror stories of commercial boats waiting out tidal cycles with loads of fish for market are unacceptable. Those annual dollars, although steep, must continue to be paid out routinely to allow navigation.
Although disappointment was rampant about the lengthy timeline, most important at this point is securing funding to carry out the $1.2 million feasibility study. The federal government is funding half with Worcester County committed to $300,000 and DNR putting up $200,000. There is no commitment for the remaining $100,000 but it should clearly come from Ocean City.
In January, the Ocean City Mayor and Council was not inclined to put funds toward this Inlet study, deciding it was a county problem and referring to the fact Ocean City property owners fund 60 percent of the county’s budget. In this particular case, that was a shortsighted approach that deserves another look.
We agree splitting the cost equally with the county was not the right way to go. However, with the county on board for $300,000 and the state funding $200,000, we think the city should put $100,000 toward the study to get this five-year clock ticking toward a long-range solution to the shoaling in the Inlet. Until that happens, the five-year process is stalled.