FENWICK ISLAND – With an engineering company now on board, a Fenwick Island committee last month evaluated the town’s next steps for securing a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee met with consultant Tony Pratt to discuss how the town should proceed in a dredging project of the neighboring bay after the council voted in August to hire Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, to provide design, bidding and construction management.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Councilman Bernie Merritt, chair of the committee.
In August, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to negotiate a contract with Anchor QEA for engineering services related to the dredging project, which is expected to address shoaling in the back bay system and clear between 3,000 and 4,000 linear feet of channel. Additionally, roughly 12,000 cubic feet of dredged material will be moved to another site for reuse.
Merritt told the committee last week the town was working with the Carl M. Freeman Companies to relocate the material to one of its properties.
“In the meantime, we’ve been dealing with the Freeman Companies …,” Merritt said. “We’ve had a good relationship with them the last eight to 10 months and they have shown interest along the way.”
Merritt said the town’s next step was to meet with company officials in the coming weeks to develop a memorandum of understanding for the use of the dredged material. Committee members said many of the unknowns related to the project would be addressed in the agreement.
“That’s why we need this memorandum of understanding,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said. “But we really couldn’t do that until we had an engineer on board that knows the situation and can talk to them … There’s a lot of unknowns and we’ll know more as we work through it.”
Merritt noted that the town would also need to bid out the project and explore ways to finance the town’s efforts. So far, the town has committed roughly $80,000 in funding toward the dredging project.
“What we are saving by Freeman taking the dredged materials is huge,” he added.
Tieman said the town would consider financing options and low-interest loans once it has received bids from dredging companies.
Committee members last week also agreed the town should seek support from state and county representatives.
“We’ll start to set meetings,” Merritt said. “It’s critical.”
Councilwoman Vicki Carmean applauded the town for its efforts to dredge the waterway, but questioned how long it would be before the town would have to dredge the bay again.
“Is there any way that somebody can use this to measure what’s going to happen in the future?” she asked.
Pratt said officials could conduct annual surveys of the Little Assawoman Bay to determine future dredging needs, but noted there was no way to stop the accumulation of material over time.
“You are not going to stop deposition,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
Pratt said the town saved time and money by working with a local company to relocate the dredged material. But he said the town should look into developing a comprehensive plan for dredging.
“You are saving a lot of hassle by finding a property that will take this dredging material. The problem is it’s a one-time shot,” he said. “Looking into the future and what your needs might be, there’s got to be some comprehensive plan … That will give us some sense of channel maintenance and where dredged material could go that would be beneficial.”