FENWICK ISLAND – The results of a bathymetric survey will determine Fenwick Island’s next steps for a dredging project in the neighboring bay.
This week, Delaware firm Three Chord began surveying work in the Little Assawoman Bay. In a Fenwick Island Dredging Committee meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Bernie Merritt, committee chair, said the survey would allow a long-awaited dredging project to move forward.
“Once we get the survey, we’ll know the dimensions and depth and we can start to put numbers around it,” he said.
Last August, the Fenwick Island Town Council agreed to hire Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, to provide design, bidding and construction management for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay. The project is expected to address shoaling in the back bay system and clear thousands of linear feet of channel.
Additionally, roughly 12,000 cubic feet of dredged material would be moved to another site for reuse. Since last year, the town has worked with the Carl M. Freeman Companies to relocate the material to one of its properties.
In the committee meeting this week, Anchor QEA Project Manager Steve Bagnull told members the engineering firm had subcontracted with Three Chord to complete the surveying work after learning the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) had delays in completing the task.
“Starting back in March, we were really hoping to get that state survey completed for the bay,” he said. “Things were on schedule, but got really derailed with the COVID situation … The survey is integral to being able to submit permits and getting our design underway. So that has been a bit of a holdup.”
Bagnull told committee members this week the results of the bathymetric survey would allow Anchor QEA to develop a preliminary design for the project and apply for construction permits on behalf of the town.
He said officials plan to submit permit applications to the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by late August. If approved, the town could bid out the dredging project by early next year.
“This is a good schedule,” he said. “It gets us out for construction in the fall of 2021. We think more lead up time will allow for better alignment of project funding and a more realistic permitting timeframe. It’s also going to provide the contractor a longer construction window, which we think will really help with the bid pricing.”
Bagnull said Anchor QEA is coordinating with the Freeman Companies and its engineering firm, George, Miles & Buhr, to provide the dredged materials once the dredging project begins. He noted officials are currently in the process of drafting a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the town and the company.
“Part of the MOA would be that they own it at that point,” Merritt added. “The town would not be held liable.”
As Anchor QEA prepares for the upcoming dredging project, Bagnull noted the firm would also explore future placement options for dredged materials. He noted one of the locations for consideration was Seal Island, which has washed out over the years.
“One thing that always needs to be kept in mind on these dredging projects is future maintenance,” he said. “As the bay has silted up, we’ll dredge and keep it to some good dimensions to limit future shoaling of the channels. But it’s always good to keep an eye out for potential placement options.”