Fenwick Dredging Talks Continue

FENWICK ISLAND – As the town inches closer to a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay, a resort committee convened this week to discuss permitting, funding and site selection.

On Monday, members of the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee met to discuss the timeline for a dredging project in the neighboring Little Assawoman Bay. As officials work to select a deposit site for the dredged material, Councilman Bill Rymer, committee chair, told members this week that a local developer has since expressed an interest in working with the town once more.

“[Consultant] Steve Bagnull received contact from the engineering group that represents a real estate developer we worked with last year …,” he said. “We explained that from a permitting process and where we stand, likely construction would start in October 2023. They said it might work for them.”

Plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town hired Tony 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 managements 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.

In 2019, the town began working with Carl M. Freeman Companies to relocate the material to one of its nearby properties, making the public-private partnership one that would save the town millions of dollars. But when the developer was forced to halt its development plans, the town turned to other potential deposit sites.

“Our number one goal is to have a place to put our dredged materials,” Rymer told committee members this week.

In June, Anchor QEA presented the committee with conceptual designs and cost estimates for three potential deposit sites – Seatowne residential community, a nearby kayak launch and Seal Island. Rymer told committee members this week that while the town had agreed to keep the developer updated on its dredging timeline, restoration efforts at Seal Island remained the community’s favored option.

“Obviously there are a couple different balls in the air with the kayak launch and Seal Island,” he said. “Right now, I think Seal Island is still number one.”

Officials pointed out that while using the developer’s property as a deposit site would save the town money, using Seal Island as a deposit site would be more beneficial.

“They will continue to work on their end, and we will continue to proceed on our end …,” Rymer said. “Seal Island would need more funding, but would provide more benefits to the town … Two very different projects, two very different impacts.”

In the meantime, committee members say they are working with state agencies to determine the best deposit site for dredged material, taking wildlife impacts and engineering into consideration. Once a site is selected, officials can move forward with seeking the necessary permits and grant funding.

“For us to be successful, we have to hone in on a specific project,” Rymer said.

In an update this week, committee members noted the town had recently applied for a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, seeking $100,000 for permitting and engineering costs. There was also discussion on hiring a grant writer to seek other funding opportunities.

“We know as a group we need to become more focused on this …,” Rymer said. “As a team, we have to take that next step.”

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.