Offshore Beach Replenishment Sand Source Identified

OCEAN CITY — Federal and state officials have entered an agreement allowing 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from a shoal about three miles off the coast to be utilized for the next round of beach replenishment this fall.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have entered an agreement allowing the corps to use sand from the outer continental shelf off the coast of Ocean City for scheduled beach replenishment as part of its Atlantic Coast of Maryland Shoreline Protection Project. The agreement announced last Thursday gives the state, working in partnership with the Army Corps, access to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand for the nourishment of over eight miles of beach including seven miles of sand dunes in Ocean City.

Ocean City’s beaches have been replenished five times since the program’s inception in 1998, each time using sand resources from state water. The agreement announced this week allows for sand resources in federal waters to be used for the next round of beach replenishment scheduled to begin next fall and be completed before the 2022 season. The Army Corps estimates beach replenishment has prevented more than $927 million in storm damage over the years.

“We are proud to partner with the Army Corps and the state of Maryland to support the nourishment of the beaches of Ocean City to improve their ability to withstand severe storms,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “This project demonstrates the value of state and federal partnerships to utilize outer continental shelf resources to help reduce the risk to communities from climate change by improving the resiliency of the coast.”

Army Corps of Engineers-Baltimore District crews will excavate the sand offshore and utilize it for the beach replenishment project next fall, according to ACE-Baltimore District Chief of the Civil Project Management Branch Justin Callahan.

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“This agreement is a fantastic example of interagency coordination between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Corps of Engineers,” he said. “Beach renourishment is a key component in reducing the risk of coastal storm damage for the town of Ocean City, and we have worked very closely with our partners to ensure that sand from the outer continental shelf used for this renourishment will be removed in a manner that has the least impact on the environment.”

Maryland DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio agreed the project will accomplish multiple goals.

“The Atlantic Coast of Maryland Shoreline Protection Project is an excellent example of resource coordination,” she said. “It allows us to protect habitat for key species, while also supporting outdoor recreation on Ocean City’s beaches, which is a significant economic driver. Working with our federal and local partners, we are able to accomplish these important goals as effectively as possible.”

Sand for the project will come from Weaver Shoal located more than three miles offshore of Ocean City. Through BOEM-funded cooperative agreements over a number of years, the state has evaluated OCS sand resources for coastal resilience and restoration planning. The Maryland Geological Survey in the Department of Natural Resources evaluated and consolidated decades worth of offshore data to identify sand resources as well as benthic habitat.

The Corps plans to award a contract for the work in July with construction anticipated to start after Labor Day.

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.