More Funds Needed For Shoreline Restoration Projects

SALISBURY – A request for increased funding is expected to benefit two shoreline restoration projects in Wicomico.

On Tuesday, Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Steve Miller came before the Wicomico County Council seeking support to accept an increased loan amount for shoreline restoration projects at Cove Road and Roaring Point.

“Our concern is that these beaches are eroding …,” he told council members this week. “Our concern is if we don’t do anything, they’re not going to fix themselves. And eventually we are going to lose those beaches, which are assets to the county.”

In 2018, the county council approved an interest-free loan from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to complete the two shoreline restorations projects.

Since that time, the county has completed a lengthy design and permitting process. But Miller noted recent construction bids for the projects came in significantly higher than originally budgeted.

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“It’s a little more than double what we had anticipated when we got approved for the 0% loan,” he said. “The reason we are here today is to seek council consensus to approach DNR and see if they would consider increasing that 0% interest loan amount, which would allow us to award the projects and proceed with these projects.”

Officials said the request would have no impact on the current fiscal budget, but would impact yearly loan repayments in out years.

“We had an estimate of $16,000 …,” said Bhaskaran Subramanian, shoreline conservation chief for DNR. “It will probably be $37,000.”

When asked what the projects would accomplish, Subramanian said it would increase the width of the beach.

“It’s probably going to go 50 feet into the water,” he replied. “So it’s definitely going to be a bigger beach, but it’s not going to be the next Ocean City.”

Councilwoman Nicole Acle questioned if that would impact visitation, maintenance and parking. While he noted his department had increased manpower, Miller said it was something for the county to consider.

“What we’re here to do is protect what we’re losing,” he said. “As far as future plans and other expansions … those are all unanswered questions at this point.”

Councilman Joe Holloway suggested the department address parking issues in addition to shoreline erosion.

“I understand saving the beach. I’m all for it,” he said. “But you are being shortsighted, and you’re creating more problems for the residents who do live down there.”

Officials noted, however, that options were limited.

“Until the opportunity presents itself, I’m not sure what else you can do there,” Councilman Bill McCain said.

After further discussion, the council reached a consensus to accept an increased loan amount, pending state approval. Officials also agreed to hold a future work session on parking and other issues at the beaches.

“It’s not an easy fix,” Miller said, “but we feel like this is an important project.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.