SNOW HILL – An agreement approved this week will allow plans to increase the depth of the Inlet to move forward.
The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) with the Department of the Army and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The PPA will allow the federal government to proceed with a project that will increase the depth of the Inlet and harbor channels.
The commissioners are anxious to see the improvements take place.
“I received an email last week from a waterman that came through the Inlet last week, 10 days ago, and had $41,000 of damage to his boat because it shoaled up so quickly,” Commissioner Bud Church said. “The Inlet’s filling twice as fast as we ever anticipated.”
Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, told the commissioners approval of the PPA, which details the responsibilities of the parties involved in the project, would move the process forward. Plans are to increase the depth of the channel inlet to 16 feet and the harbor channel to 14 feet. The material dredged up from the Inlet will be used for the Assateague Island Restoration Project while the material removed from the harbor will be stored on a land based site that has not yet been identified.
Mitchell pointed out that the county’s financial contribution to the project could be “quite significant.” The county and DNR are responsible for $1.7 million, and the county has exposure if the project goes over the federal limit of $10 million. It is currently budgeted at roughly $8.5 million.
Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom asked why the Town of Ocean City wasn’t contributing to the project cost.
“The Town of Ocean City does contribute,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. “They contribute to the county government’s fund to the tune of over 50 percent.”
Mitrecic, a former councilman in Ocean City, added that the Inlet wasn’t even in Ocean City.
“It’s called the Ocean City Inlet but it’s not in Ocean City,” he said. “It services the West Ocean City harbor that the county rents slips out in and also reaps the benefits of fuel sales and taxes thereof. It is a major investment for the county as a whole. Ocean City has chosen not to be a part of it for their reasons. They feel that because they are 50 to 60 percent of the county’s budget they are a part of it in that sense.”