Plans Dropped For Pines Course Irrigation Project

Plans Dropped For Pines Course Irrigation Project
Worcester County is no longer pursuing an effluent irrigation project at the Ocean Pines Golf Course. File photo

SNOW HILL–  Worcester County has abandoned plans for a golf course spray irrigation project in Ocean Pines.

Worcester County Public Works Director Dallas Baker advised the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) last week that the county was not moving forward with a proposal to use wastewater to irrigate the community’s golf course. According to a Feb. 3 letter from Baker, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) wasn’t approved by the county commissioners.

“The MOU failed to garner the support needed to pass,” he wrote. “Worcester County Public Works will be halting all activity related to this project.”

In January 2020, at the request of the Ocean Pines Wastewater Advisory Board, the county began exploring the possibility of irrigating the Ocean Pines Golf Course with effluent from the community’s wastewater treatment plant. According to officials, the project would reduce the level of nutrients entering local waterways and would decrease the use of groundwater for irrigation. Similar projects have been successful at other local facilities, including Eagle’s Landing and River Run.

Area residents were quick to voice concerns about the proposal, however, with several noting the legal issues—including the fact that the county would need an easement to construct and maintain the system—that would be involved. While the OPA board voted to support the project in September, they were aware that the project was in its early stages.

“The county approached OPA with the concept of doing the effluent irrigation project,” OPA President Colette Horn said in an email Monday. “The discussion of the project was at a very high level in that no details had been decided upon.  There were many questions put to the county representative during a Town Hall Meeting with our membership.  The OPA Board expressed interest in going forward with further exploration of how this would work and who would be responsible for what, and to get a clear indication of costs to OPA and its membership.”

She said that’s when the MOU was drafted. With the commissioners failure to approve it, OPA General Manager John Viola will move forward with evaluating the condition of the existing irrigation system.

“Mr. Viola is working with his Director of Golf Operations and Golf Superintendent to evaluate the condition of the existing irrigation system, assess needs, and come up with a plan to address identified needs,” she said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said that while the concept of the project was attractive, when it was reviewed more closely there were various issues involved. He added that the community’s wastewater treatment plant didn’t lack capacity.

“Does the county really need to go through the expense of doing this?” he said.

Commissioner Jim Bunting agreed.

“If you look at the price and the benefit, it didn’t come close to the expense of doing it,” he said. “We have probably the best wastewater treatment plant in the state of Maryland. The effluent is clean. For the cost of it, this wasn’t a fair thing to put on the ratepayers.”

He added that numerous citizens had contacted him to voice concern about the project.

“I had a lot of people contact me who didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.