Wetlands Created To Mitigate Airport Runway Work

WEST OCEAN CITY — As part of a mitigation for disturbing sensitive areas during a runway improvement project at the Ocean City Municipal Airport, the town is creating an expansive wetlands area along a nearby creek.

Ocean City and state and federal partners are improving one of the runways at the municipal airport and, as a result, some environmentally-sensitive areas along the waterfront end of the runway had to be disturbed. The sensitive areas could not be preserved on-site because of the project.

To that end, Ocean City and its state and federal partners are creating a vast 8.5-acre wetlands area along Ayres Creek just to the north of Assateague Road, Ocean City Airport manager Jaime Giandomenico said this week.  In total, a little over six acres would be impacted and a mitigation area of at least that size must be located somewhere within the coastal bays watershed. In simplest terms, an in-kind amount of non-tidal wetlands must be created to replace the wetlands and other environmentally-sensitive areas impacted by the two-phase project at the Ocean City Municipal Airport.

“We had to remove some obstructions and stabilize the end of the runway closest to the water,” said Giandomenico. “In the process, we had to impact some sensitive areas. In order to get that project permitted, we had to create other wetlands in a sensitive location just off Ayres Creek.”

The creation of a protected sensitive area actually represents a new gain of wetlands in the area. The site disturbed as part of the runway enhancement project at the airport is around six acres, while the newly-created area along Ayres Creek nearby is about 8.5 acres.

“It’s a good thing for everybody,” said Giandomenico. “It’s really a win-win. There are a couple ways of doing it. You can mitigate it on-site if you have the room, but if you can’t, you have to find another area in-lieu. Just because you’re an airport doesn’t mean you get a free pass on disturbing wetlands. All of those rules are in place for a reason.”

Giandomenico said creating the new wetlands area along Ayres Creek made sense because of its closeness to the airport and it’s in the same coastal bays watershed.

“It’s really turn-key,” he said of the roughly $1.4 million project, which is shared by a state and local split. “We put it out for a competitive bid and the work is being completed now.”

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.