OCEAN CITY — The Army Corps of Engineers hopper dredge Murden arrived in Ocean City late last week for a month-long dredging project around the Inlet.
Three or four times a year, the Army Corps of Engineers-Baltimore District sends the Murden or its sister ship Currituck to Ocean City to conduct routine dredging in and around the Inlet. The Murden returned to the area last Friday and it will conduct the typical Assateague bypass project, which removes material in and around the navigation channel with an emphasis on the ebb and flood shoals that traditionally trap sand moving southward toward Assateague.
During dredging cycles where material is taken from within the channel, the crew will focus on shoaling as identified by Army Corps of Engineers pre-dredge surveys being conducted by personnel on site this week. Examples of traditional shoaling hotspots would the area between buoys 11 and 12 and near the Coast Guard dock in the area of buoys 8 and 10, but the upcoming dredging will be dictated by the surveys being completed this week.
Dredged material is placed south of the Inlet, just offshore of Assateague Island where it counteracts erosion. Army Corps of Engineers officials this week said the latest routine bypass project at the Inlet will last roughly one month.
Throughout the Murden’s visit, the entirety of the Assateague by-pass cycle and the additional Inlet-only dredging will take place. The Murden will be removing one load per day from the Inlet. Crews will place the dredged material south of the Inlet just off the coast of the north end of Assateague for most of its time in the area, which helps stabilize the island, which is constantly eroding.
The operation will continue in a 24-hour cycle while the Murden is in Ocean City. While the Inlet and other channels in and around the commercial harbor naturally fill in and are in continual need of maintenance dredging, the problem has become even more acute in recent years. In recent years, some vessels operating out the commercial harbor have found it difficult, if not impossible, to pass through the Inlet even on the highest of tides because of the shoaling of the navigational channel.
The Army Corps, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Worcester County have signed a project partnership agreement for the Ocean City Harbor and Inlet navigation improvement project, which is 90 percent federally funded. The corps will continuously evaluate sediment transport in the Inlet and recommend options to manage the shoaling.