Ocean City Today

Beach repairs will re-deposit tons of sand

Schedule moved up because of storms
By Katie Tabeling | Oct 26, 2017
Photo by: Josh Davis Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company have set up pipes and various other equipment on the beach at 139th Street for the beach replenishment project.

(Oct. 27, 2017) Ocean City officials say this year’s round of beach replenishment will begin any day now, as the offshore dredge that will pump sand to the beach was scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning.

The project, which involves transferring nearly a million tons of sand from the offshore sea floor to the beach, was scheduled to last week. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Gardner the delay was caused by circumstances beyond the control of contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.

“The dredge has a pretty full schedule with projects, and a slow start out of port or bad weather had a cascading effect,” Gardner said. “A week is not the worst delay that we’ve seen.”

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company was awarded $12.7 million contract this summer to as part of the Army Corps’ coastal storm risk management project. The scope of the project covers the entire beach, and crews will start at the Delaware line and work south.

“Most people don’t realize that the beach they enjoy, that nice flat area in front of the Boardwalk and the dunes, is something that we create to reduce risk for storm damage,” Gardner said. “Once the sand’s pumped up, we move it to make sure it’s the right topography and at the right elevation.”

The plan is to ensure the berm, the flat beach area, is 7 feet above the high tide. Overall, the project is expected to take 40 to 60 days, depending on weather conditions.

The corps replenishes Ocean City’s beach every four years, following a 50-year agreement struck in 1994 between local, county, state and federal governments.

The last phase of beach replenishment was in 2014 following Hurricane Sandy. Gardner said the corps expedited this round because of the beating the dunes took from the storms last January.

“There was minimal damage from the hurricanes this summer, but that was nothing compared to Winter Storm Jonas,” he said.

Ocean City officials often point to beach replenishment as the best way to maintain the resort’s main attraction and to protect properties from flooding. However, City Engineer Terry McGean said there has been occasional criticism.

“People from surrounding communities [say] that it negatively impacts surfing and it causes rip tides,” he said. “It might [impact surfing] for the first year after any given replenishment … [but] it absolutely does not cause rip tides.”

Nonresident property owners also complain that the dunes are too big and block their ocean view, but McGean said those calls and emails are from those who stay in first-floor units in low-lying buildings. The dunes also prevent the ocean from rushing into their living rooms during major storms.

Several people, including watermen, noted that beach replenishment could be one of the causes of the increased shoaling in Ocean City’s inlet, but it’s not a complaint that McGean hears often.

“It’s one of many contributing factors,” he said. “The bottom line is sand from our beach does wind up in the inlet. However, if we’re not doing beach replenishment our beach would still be eroding and you would still have sand entering the inlet (along with pieces of buildings).”

The Army Corps of Engineers estimate that beach replenishment has prevented an estimate $900 million in storm damages.

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