OC Inlet shoaling: we’re still waitingEDITORIAL
It’s been two years since government officials, commercial and recreational fishing representatives and other interested parties let the Army Corps of Engineers know that something had to be done about the gradual disappearance of a passable channel in the Ocean City inlet.
A year earlier, the Worcester County Commissioners said the same thing, reminding the Corps and others that millions of dollars were at stake if commercial fishing vessels — trawlers, clammers and scallopers — were prevented from entering the harbor because of shoaling in and around the inlet.
This week, we learn that the dredges that have been used to maintain the inlet channel are busy just now, but could be here next month, maybe. That would make it about a month-and-a-half since the last commercial fishing boat — the Instigator — ran aground on its way to the harbor.
We are further encouraged (not really) to learn that the Corps will continue to study the situation. Its focus, however, will not be on the inlet’s particular problem, but on the mini-abyss that’s being scoured out of the bay bottom off the northeast corner of Martha’s Landing.
If only the sea bass, scallops and clams could be pulled out of that football field-sized hole, we’d be in business.
It is possible that the scour hole, which is 50 feet deep and counting, could be contributing to inlet shoaling, as the sediment that’s being dug up by the whirling current there must go somewhere.
Because hydrodynamics is one of the physical sciences, laymen such as ourselves have no business speculating on the possibility of a connection between the scouring and the shoaling. But in the short term it makes no difference whether the two things are related, since it apparently will take two more years of surveys and studies to find out. In the meantime, the sandbars and shoals will continue to hamper traffic in the inlet.
Money for maintenance dredging is obviously an issue, and at this stage in this year’s politically volatile federal budgeting process, there’s no way to forecast the flow of dollars to this or that agency.
All we know for certain is that the inlet channel isn’t getting better, that a real answer is years away, and that no one beyond this area’s officials and the fishing communities seem to be as concerned about it as we expect them to be.