OCEAN CITY — The federal Army Corps of Engineers will continue its routine maintenance dredging of the Ocean City Inlet, but efforts will be ramped up for a more permanent solution including a study of a growing scour hole near Stinky Beach.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced last week through an agreement with Worcester County, the federal Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) will continue to dredge the Ocean City Inlet as it typically does at different times throughout the year, but a larger exploration of a more permanent solution is underway.
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 just announced, 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.
To that end, DNR officials announced ACE is now undertaking a navigation improvement project to address the sediment accumulation, or shoaling, within the Inlet. While the study is ongoing, ACE will continue to dredge the Inlet to its authorized depth of 10 feet. The long-term goal includes potential structural changes to the Inlet, according to a DNR statement released this week.
“Through the Ocean City Harbor and Inlet navigation project, the Corps will evaluate sediment transport in the Inlet and recommend options for addressing the shoaling in the channel,” the DNR statement reads. “Those options include structural solutions such as jetties or channel modifications like deepening the channel in the Inlet. No options have been solidified at this time.”
At the same time, the DNR announced ACE is continuing a study of a large scour hole that has developed just northwest of the Inlet near Homer Gudelsky Park, or more commonly known locally as Stinky Beach. Back in 2017, ACE began a “Scour Hole-Beneficial Use of Dredged Material study, which is 100-percent federally funded. During the study, which is continuing concurrently with the larger Inlet study, ACE researchers have been collecting field data to better understand the dynamics of the large scour hole including collecting sediment samples and mapping the region in and around the scour hole.
In the coming months, the ACE research team and its partners hope to utilize the data collected to begin modeling potential alternatives for addressing the scour hole issue. In the short term, the team and its partners are considering the beneficial reuse of the material dredged from the Inlet and the area around the scour hole including an expansion of restoring or creating islands in the coastal bays. According to ACE online literature, scour holes exist where underwater bed material has been continually removed, resulting erosion near a structure.
In the near future, ACE and its partners are planning to host an open house and public meeting to provide further details and obtain feedback from the community and stakeholders on the Inlet study and the concurrent effort to address the large scour hole that has developed near Stinky Beach. However, a time and place for that public input meeting has not yet been determined.
Both efforts are being conducted through the corps’ Continuing Authorities Program, which allows ACE to work with state and local partners on smaller water resources issues without the need for congressional authorization. If projects such as the Inlet dredging and the scour hole problem are found to be in the federal interest, ACE can proceed to the implementation phase pending, of course, the availability of funding, according to DNR.