Waterway Grants Include $50K To Repair OC Fire Boat

Waterway Grants Include $50K To Repair OC Fire Boat
Pictured, from left, are Commerce Secretary Kelly Shulz, Gov. Larry Hogan, DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Delegate Wayne Hartman and OCFD Chief Richie Bowers. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced more than $13 million in Waterway Improvement Fund grants statewide, including $50,000 for an engine replacement for the Ocean City Fire Department’s fire and rescue vessel’s engine replacement.

Hogan made the announcement from Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) headquarters at 15th Street on Tuesday morning. The governor has been making the rounds around the shore and the resort area this week as part of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) convention going on in the resort.

The governor on Tuesday announced $13.5 million in Waterway Improvement Fund grants for 60 projects in 19 counties. Projects supported by the grant funding include new public boating access, amenities and facilities, the dredging of navigable waterways, emergency vessels and equipment for local first responders.

“Boating is not just an important part of our history and our culture, it is also an important part of Maryland’s economy,” he said. “The announcement of these new grants is yet another shining example that Maryland is open for business, open for summer and open for boating.”

Included in the $13.5 million in grant funding is $50,000 for engine replacements on the OCFD fire rescue boat, which has been dry-docked for about a year. Since 2013, the OCFD’s fire-rescue boat moored at its berth along the bayside at 13th Street has been an important weapon in the department’s arsenal.


File Photo

However, during an emergency response last August, one of the vessel’s two inboard motors blew and the crew limped home on one engine. It has been dry-docked since as department officials considered the best options to get it back in service and back into the water. The $50,000 grant announced on Tuesday will help get the important tool back in the water.

“We appreciate the grant,” said OCFD Chief Richie Bowers. “It will without question help get our boat back in the water and operational.”

The fire-rescue boat was put into service in 2013. It has twin 350 horsepower diesel engines along with twin pumps for fire suppression that can pump 1,250 gallons per minute. It also has an integrated 25-gallon foam suppression system for flammable liquid fires. It also includes state-of-the art EMS and patient care equipment, on-board rescue swimmer equipment and dive team equipment.

The fire-rescue boat has the unique ability to respond to fire and EMS incidents in shallow areas not always navigable for larger fire boats.

The original plan for the fire-rescue boat dates back to April of 2008 when the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) commissioned a study to document the current waterborne fire/rescue responsibility and future needs of the OCVFC.

The study recapped several maritime fire and rescue challenges the OCFD faced, such as shallow and difficult navigation due to changing sandbars, heavy pleasure boat traffic in main channels during peak season, a densely populated shoreline with many buildings, numerous marinas and West Ocean City having a large opportunity for brush and marsh fires with limited access and hydrant water supply.

In July 2009, a Fireboat Workgroup was assembled that included representatives from OCFD, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the NRP, who were tasked with evaluating current OCFD marine resources, reviewing recommendations for vessel specs, coordinating with USCG and NRP to avoid duplication of capabilities and developing preliminary specifications and cost estimation to begin sourcing.

Moore Boats, a side project of Ocean City restaurateur Leighton Moore, was commissioned to develop the fire-rescue boat and donated much of the funding for the vessel, the boat lift and the dock at 13th Street along with High Tide Marine.

The Waterway Improvement Fund was created in 1966 as a means to support the development, enjoyment and use of Maryland waters for the benefit of the boating public. It’s funding is derived from a 5% vessel excise tax on boat purchases and titling.

“We are pleased to demonstrate Maryland’s commitment to keeping our waters safe and accessible through these grant awards,” said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio on Tuesday. “The Waterway Improvement Fund is an essential program that benefits all waterway users.”

The $50,000 for the OCFD fire-rescue boat is just one element of the funding announced on Tuesday for Worcester County and the resort area. Also included is $248,500 for the Town of Ocean City for Channel 10 maintenance dredging, $50,000 for dredging at the Maryland Natural Resources Police facility, $250,000 for bulkhead replacement and other improvements at the public boat ramp at South Point, and $100,000 for boat ramp repairs at Milburn Landing in the Pocomoke River State Park.

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.