Fenwick Committee, Developer Renew Dredging Talks

FENWICK ISLAND – As plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay continue to develop, a Fenwick Island committee last week began exploring other potential partnerships.

Last Thursday, the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee met with consultant Tony Pratt and Anchor QEA’s Steve Bagnull to discuss ongoing efforts for dredging the neighboring Little Assawoman Bay.

While officials have set their sights on Seal Island as a potential deposit site for dredged material, Councilman Bill Rymer, committee chair, noted that representatives from the Carl M. Freeman Companies have reapproached the town regarding a partnership.

“Until we get a green light from the state, I don’t think we should be spending money on Seal Island,” he told committee members last week. “But we could turn our engineering attention to what a permit application would look like if we turned our attention back to the land developers.”

Plans to dredge roughly 19,000 cubic feet of material from the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town hired Pratt, a former administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to guide them through the funding and permitting processes.

And in 2019, Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, was brought on board to provide design, bidding and construction management services.

Since that time, town officials have been seeking locations in which to place the project’s dredged materials, including Seal Island, Seatowne community and a nearby kayak launch.

In 2019, the town also worked with Carl M. Freeman Companies on a plan to relocate the material to one of its properties, a parcel of land off Route 54.

Last year, however, officials announced the company had decided to accelerate its timeline for a project on the potential deposit site, preventing the partnership from moving forward.

In an update last week, Rymer told committee members representatives working with Freeman Companies have once again reached out to the town.

“It was a great conversation …,” Rymer said. “Their opening comment was that their timetable on the development had changed, and all of our conversations were down the path of what it would look like to re-engage and how quickly it could move forward.”

Rymer noted the company was willing to work with the town’s dredging timeline and recommended Anchor QEA prepare a new proposal, incorporating a timetable and the steps necessary to complete an upland placement project with the land developer as efforts continue to secure a deposit site at Seal Island.

While the town is currently working with the state to secure approval to use Seal Island, officials noted a partnership with Freeman Companies could allow the permitting process to move faster.

“Our number one priority has been to successfully dredge these two boating channels and finding an acceptable place to dispose of those materials …,” Rymer said. “The biggest thing I wanted to gain from the conversation was what the timeframe would look like.”

Rymer told committee members last week the town was still waiting on a written approval, or a potential contract, to deposit dredged materials onto Seal Island.

Pratt, however, said that process could take more time, as any potential agreement between the town and the state would involve the attorney general’s office.

“The department has not, to the best of his knowledge, reached out to the attorney general’s office, which will be a necessary step …,” he said. “That could add to the timeline … It’s anybody’s guess how long it would take.”

Committee members noted that the town would need to apply for the necessary permits early next year in order to begin its dredging project in October 2023.

Pratt said he would continue to work with DNREC, Delaware State Parks and other state agencies to expedite the process.

“This could be a lot of back and forth,” Rymer added, “and time, which is not exactly on our side.”

After further discussion, the committee ultimately agreed to continue pursuing Seal Island as a potential deposit site for the dredging project.

Officials also directed Bagnull to explore timelines and steps for a potential deposit site at the Freeman Companies property.

A drafted memorandum of understanding between the town and Freeman Companies would also be discussed at the committee’s next meeting.

“I think this is awesome,” said committee member George Murphy. “If we can work these two things in parallel and get two disposal sites, that would be great. That would not only take care of a deposit site for the channels but would also give us an opportunity to explore doing the canals and lagoons.”

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.