County To Formally Ask OC For Inlet Funding Help

County To Formally Ask OC For Inlet Funding Help
File photo

SNOW HILL – As plans for a feasibility study regarding Inlet dredging move forward, county officials formally agreed to seek funding support from the Town of Ocean City.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 6-1, with Commissioner Joe Mitrecic opposed, to ask Ocean City to contribute funding for a feasibility study proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). The study is the first step in the process of finding a permanent solution to address Inlet depth concerns. While shoaling has made accessing the harbor in West Ocean City difficult for commercial fishing boats for years, it’s enough of a problem now that even recreational fishing boats are running aground.

“The town, the county, the state and several federal agencies are involved in trying to move this process forward,” said Bill Anderson, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We’ve got a significant time period between today and when the final construction, the final solution that would deepen the Inlet, would be in place. Five years give or take. Between now and then, ensuring that good water’s available not only for the commercial vessels but also for recreational vessels, including the big offshore fishing boats, is pretty paramount.”

Anderson and Tony Clark, a program manager for ACE, provided the commissioners with an update on the latest plans for the Ocean City Inlet during Tuesday’s meeting. Clark discussed the $1.2 million feasibility study that would precede any actual construction to deepen the Inlet. As the three-year study moves forward, Clark assured officials that emergency dredging could address depth concerns in the meantime. He added, however, the one of two boats that handles dredging, the Currituck, had recently been damaged.

“There’s a lot of unknowns right now,” he said.

Nevertheless, he’s hopeful that the dredging scheduled to take place just before the White Marlin Open would still occur. He said the boats were highly sought after up and down the East Coast.

“They’re going from one port to the next,” he said.

Anderson said DNR had increased its surveying of the waters around the Inlet and was now checking depth just before and just after dredging operations.

“The idea is to provide local mariners with the best information we can,” he said.

The commissioners thanked both ACE and DNR for working to address the shoaling problem.

“We’re trying to plow this thing ahead and get this resolved,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s agency is expected to fund $300,000 of the $1.2 million cost of the feasibility study. The federal government will fund $600,000. Though Worcester County has agreed to fund the remaining $300,000, Commissioner Chip Bertino made the motion Tuesday to ask Ocean City to contribute as well.

Sen. Jim Mathias thanked the commissioners for their attention to the issue.

“Each of you know how critical that artery is to many things,” he said.

Del. Mary Beth Carozza offered similar comments, thanking DNR and ACE for their involvement.

“We are all partners in this,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.