More Fed Funds Allocated For Routine Inlet Dredging

OCEAN CITY — The Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District this week announced it was receiving an additional $13 million in federal funding for critical navigation projects across Maryland including a boost in funding for the continued maintenance dredging of the Ocean City Inlet.

The funding is being provided through the Army Corps of Engineers-Baltimore District 2019 work plan for civil works projects in Maryland. The funding announced this week supplements the roughly $80 million already appropriated in the federal budget for the ACE-Baltimore District and includes an additional $250,000 for the continued maintenance dredging of the Ocean City Inlet. Earlier this year, ACE officials announced the funding for the Ocean City Inlet dredging had been tripled to $500,000 and the $250,000 in additional funding announced this week supplements that.

“This additional funding is vital for us to carry out the important missions and programs we deliver for the benefit of the entire bay region,” said ACE Baltimore District Commander Colonel John Litz.

The Inlet and other channels in and around the commercial harbor naturally fill in and are in constant need of maintenance dredging, but the problem has become more acute in recent years to the point the Inlet is often impassable and unnavigable for larger vessels on even the highest of tides. While maintenance dredging will continue thanks in large part to the supplementary funding announced this week, local, state and federal officials have been exploring a long-term solution including dredging the Inlet channel to a greater depth and possibly even a reconfiguration of the jetties or a relocation of the channel.

The Inlet is the Army Corps’ responsibility and the federal agency has shown a willingness to be part of the solution. However, before any major changes take place in the Inlet, the ACE wants to conduct a feasibility study to chart a course for action. The study is a necessary first step and is essentially a requirement before the federal government invests potentially millions of dollars into a long-term fix.

The study is expected to cost $1.2 million, of which the federal government would fund half. The remaining $600,000 would be funded by a combination of state and local sources including 50 percent, or $300,000 from the state and 25 percent each, or $150,000 each from Worcester County and the town of Ocean City. However, the Town of Ocean City and Worcester County remain at odds on how to split the local share, if at all.

ACE’s next scheduled dredging project in the Inlet is set for later this fall, and that project was already planned and would have happened regardless of Monday’s supplementary funding. According to Gardner, Monday’s announcement ensures a steady stream of federal funding into next year and beyond.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) praised the approval of the additional funding for the ACE Baltimore District for its benefit to navigation projects around Maryland including Ocean City.

“The Army Corps has engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Maryland’s federal delegation about our state’s most pressing need and opportunities for lasting change and then taken concrete action to address them,” said Cardin. “The Army Corps fiscal year 2019 work plan shows a willingness to devote significant resources to projects we have highlighted as being of tremendous importance to Marylanders. The agency also is showing that it is mindful of the ability of its projects to support a diversity of goals, ensuring, for example, the improved navigability of our waters and ecological functionality of our coastal landscapes.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.