Ocean City Today

Beach replenishment alternative

Surf Report
By Dave Dalkiewicz | Nov 30, 2017

(Dec. 1, 2017) Another beach replenishment project has been going on for about a month now.

It was started at the north end of Ocean City at the Delaware-Maryland state line working its way south. Basically, a survey is taken and sand is pumped and filled onto the beach to attain a certain level. All of this is done to protect the town from storms and assure the presence of a beach for the summer tourist season. The beach is the town’s greatest attraction. The tax base that Ocean City is; certainly worth protecting.

Sand is dredged from various offshore locations, pumped through a pipeline and deposited on the beach. It’s sort of like building a sand castle, except that the castle is flat and very, very, very large. It’s huge, in fact.  A massive undertaking, and incredibly expensive. But, it’s been deemed to be the best solution to a serious problem.

Yes, it maintains the beach, protects the town and all that it entails. There’s always the nice level sandbox to walk on, sit upon, lay down on and maintain memories for future generations just as it has for those who’ve been coming here since they were youngsters. It’s a tradition held in some families for a long, long time.

At the risk of being offensive, I don’t like it. There, it’s been said. This is not the rant of a rebellious nature. There’s just the possibility of going at it in a different way.

There are drawbacks to beach replenishment. It creates dangerous shore break conditions unsafe for swimmers of any ability. It’s monstrously expensive, so much so that it takes the co-operation of government and tax-paying citizens on a local, state and federal level. And, it’s not permanent. It’s subject to eroding away.

An assessment is taken periodically and if necessary the whole process may be done all over again. More money, more time, more effort. More money. More danger. More money. Oh, and it wrecks the surf.

It’s been quite a few years but at that time, Shelly Dawson, who headed up the Ocean City chapter of Surfrider, along with Kip Martin, was able to get an audience with local government officials. I was able to join them and we met with then mayor Jim Mathias, City Manager Dennis Dare, and City Engineer Terry McGean.

Our idea was one of artificial reefs, basically sand bags as big as buses of a material that would be very long lasting. Artificial reefs can come in many different forms. Railroad cars no longer in use, scuttled ships, even statues that are coming down in some of our former confederate states. Most any very large object that is stoutly made and no longer in use only to get in the way or put in land fills.

The idea is to dissipate wave energy before it arrives at the beach thereby reducing the erosion of the sand that the beach is made of. Ideally, this would create a safer swimming area, protect the beach, town, and tax base, make for a good surfing wave and fertile fishing grounds. It also held the possibility of being infinitely cheaper and something that wouldn’t have to be done every two, four, or eight years.

This idea had proved successful in different places around the world. We weren’t vying for a wholesale town-wide change. What we proposed was a “try-out.”  An experiment in a small area to at least research if an idea such as this would be feasible. It would have to be done correctly with even possibility of future altercation. Too good to be true, right?

Yup! We were politely listened to but ultimately rejected. To appropriate the cooperation and funds that these massive replenishment projects require takes a lot of lobbying, hand-shaking, back-slapping and arm-twisting. These guys weren’t about to rock that boat. The 50-year agreement had already been in force for at least 10 years.

On a personal, level I don’t want to see the beach or town erode away. I like this town, own property, pay taxes, and have staked my working life on this area.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat and protect a beach and seaside town. Or at least look into other ways of doing it. Politics and big money are very serious issues with lots of consequences in the balance.

Thank God for Assateague.

Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in Ocean City.

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