More study on tap for inlet shoalsMaintenance dredge may be available next month, depending on schedule
(March 31, 2017) When fishermen, elected officials, government workers and others met about two years ago to look for an answer to the constant shoaling that was stranding commercial fishing vessels as they worked their way through the Ocean City Inlet, the compromise solution reached included increased dredging and a new hydrodynamic study of the area.
Now, as fishing vessels continue to run aground — the most recent incident last week with the Instigator, a vessel that’s been stuck there at least twice before — the Army Corps of Engineers revealed that new dredging in the area won’t take place for at least a month, and it had narrowed the focus of the study to a scour hole near Homer Gudelsky Park, formerly known as Stinky Beach.
“Going forward, our plan is for the study to focus primarily on the large scour hole in the waters near Stinky Beach and addressing its cause and impacts. With this change in approach, we hope to be able to finish the study effort and have a recommendation in 2019,” Christopher Gardner, corps spokesman, said.
At the end of 2015, Congress approved the Army Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program, which contains a number relatively smaller projects relating to regional sediment management. Instead of tackling each project on a case-by-case basis, the CAP grants approval to a number of projects at once.
One of the approved projects was the hydrodynamic study for Ocean City, based on requests from local officials who signed letters of intent to partner with the corps on the project.
The primary reason for the partnership is funding, with some contributions offered by the county and resort.
“Originally, while we were scoping the study and determining what all would need to be done during it, the bigger picture approach of looking at the inlet, nearby erosion, the scour hole near Stinky Beach and other issues related to sediment in and around the inlet was going to require multiple years’ worth of observation just for the initial data gathering phase,” Gardner said. “That would then be followed by the analysis and assessment of alternatives for regional management of sediment.”
Gardner said performing the study this way would take too long and exceed the funding attached to the CAP program by Congress.
A previous study of the inlet by the corps was completed in 1998, but never acted upon.
Gardner said the scour hole is more than 50 feet deep at one point, exacerbating nearby erosion and is likely contributing to the problems.
“Once this change is formally approved, likely this summer, we would then begin formally gathering data on the scour hole and analyzing existing historical data. The study’s recommendations will be to address the scour hole and associated shoreline erosion, including rip rap damage,” he said.
In the meantime, the inlet isn’t likely to see either of the corps East Coast dredges, for at least a month.
“Right now, we’re scheduled for either the Currituck or the Murden to carry out [Assateague] bypass work, including the usual dredging of shoaling hotspots in the inlet itself, either late April or May,” Gardner said.
He said it was possible one of the dredges could make a pass at the inlet during travel to another job, but that would be dependent on scheduling.