Committee Reviews Studies, Cost Estimates For Dredge Project

Committee Reviews Studies, Cost Estimates For Dredge Project
An underwater object has been detected at the cross section of the proposed south channel dredge site. File Photo.

FENWICK ISLAND – A review of archeological studies, cost estimates and timelines highlighted a recent dredging meeting in Fenwick Island.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee met to discuss the next steps in a long-awaited dredging project of the Little Assawoman Bay. As the town continues to pursue a partnership with Seatowne, a residential community north of Fenwick, committee members last week joined with consultants to review the results of archeological and sediment studies, as well as cost estimates and timelines.

“Everything I’m hearing sounds really fruitful for the Seatowne site,” said Tony Pratt, project consultant.

Plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town council hired Pratt, former administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to guide them through the funding and permitting processes. By the following year, Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, was brought on board to provide design, bidding and construction management services.

Simply put, the dredging project is expected to address shoaling in the back-bay system and connect boating channels along Fenwick’s bayside canals to the main channel in the Little Assawoman Bay. As part of that effort, roughly 19,000 cubic feet of dredged material would be moved to another site for reuse.

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Since 2019, the town has worked with Carl M. Freeman Companies to relocate its dredged material to one of the developer’s properties, making the public-private partnership one that would save Fenwick millions of dollars. In September, however, officials announced the Freeman Companies had decided to accelerate its project timeline for the identified spoil site – a parcel of land off Route 54 that had been approved for a 70-lot subdivision.

To that end, officials began to explore an adjacent 9.2-acre parcel owned by the developer. Those plans were also taken off the table in October when the county’s denial of a hotel project on the site forced the developer to reevaluate its project, as well as its partnership with the town.

In an effort to move forward with the dredging project, committee members last month began discussing a potential beneficial use project at Seatowne, which would use the dredged material to replenish roughly 19 acres of wetlands. Back on the agenda last week for discussion, Councilman Bill Rymer, committee chair, said the community’s homeowners association (HOA) was considering the partnership.

“Today I believe their HOA was having a meeting to discuss basically this project,” he said.

Committee members last week also discussed the results of a recent sediment study. Anchor QEA’s Steve Bagnull noted there were no significant findings.

“There’s a good gradation of sands, silts and clays in this material,” he said. “It makes it a good material for beneficial use purposes in a number of different scenarios. It certainly doesn’t rule it out from something like Seatowne.”

Bagnull also presented committee members with the results of an archaeological study, which identified an area in the south channel that required further investigation.

“It is smack dab in the middle of the channel and the spur running south of it …,” he said. “There’s two options available for dealing with a situation like this. One is to avoid the area entirely – that would involve an offset of 50 to 75 feet or so – or you conduct an additional investigation, which would be termed a Phase 1B investigation to help identify what exactly this item is.”

Bagnull said his company recommended the additional Phase 1B study, which came at a cost of $10,000.

“There’s nothing worse than our one anomaly being in our one and only intersection that we have,” Rymer replied.

Officials told committee members last week conceptual cost estimates for the proposed dredging project totaled nearly $1.4 million, or about $300,000 more than the initial cost estimate for the Freeman partnership. Bagnull noted the distance between the dredge site and the Seatowne community resulted in a higher cost.

“We need to do a lot of fundraising, and there are a lot of unknowns,” Rymer said. “But if this is a reasonable range, I think we have a very achievable target.”

Officials noted the project could be completed by early 2023, though the timeline would depend largely on the permitting process. Bagnull noted the town would also need to conduct additional studies, which would require the approval of the town council.

“We’re not making a decision today on the proposals,” Rymer said.

The committee’s next meeting will be held on Jan. 25 at 9 a.m.

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.