Ocean City Today

County share of dredge study more than previously thought

Channel depth eliminates state participation under current rules, change sought
By Brian Gilliland | Feb 22, 2018

(Feb. 23, 2018) County officials recently learned of a new wrinkle in the ongoing struggle to keep the Ocean City Inlet navigable by commercial and other vessels — they only have about half the money needed to conduct a study to identify the cause of inlet shoaling.

The number for the local share of the study has long been placed at $300,000, and that’s the amount the Worcester County Commissioners approved two weeks ago. However, that estimate was based on partnerships with both state and federal agencies.

Because the depth of the channel exceeds seven feet, County Administrator Harold Higgins said that the state is prevented from contributing, leaving only local and federal partnerships available.

The Army Corps of Engineers approved the inlet to a depth of 10 feet, though it is currently much shallower than that in certain spots.

The estimated total cost to study what is causing the inlet to continually fill with sand is about $1.2 million, Higgins said. The county’s share would be $600,000 of that if it intended to pay half.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents the Ocean City District, said the county’s delegation to the General Assembly could be asked to help restore the state’s share of the equation. The goal would be to keep the county share to $300,000.

Two weeks ago, Mitrecic asked the other commissioners to appropriate funding toward the effort wand received unanimous approval.

“It was brought up at our last meeting that we need to move on this if we plan on supporting and having the [Department of Natural Resources] and Army Corps be part of the study. Our part of that is $300,000,” he said two weeks ago.

Mitrecic made a motion to “find the money to support that study.”

Commissioner Bud Church, who has attended several meetings with government officials, staff and local commercial fishermen, said time is of the essence, and “we need to move on this now.”

Mitrecic also said the county could “ask Ocean City for a possible contribution” toward restoring navigability to the inlet.

For the past five years, boats of decreasing size have run aground entering or exiting the inlet, severely limiting the effectiveness of the state’s only ocean-facing port.

Commercial fishermen have long limited their entries and exits from the harbor to high tide, but even this workaround is becoming less effective over time.

Meanwhile, Ocean City officials are on record as saying the inlet, which leads to the county’s commercial harbor in West Ocean City, is the county’s problem, not theirs.

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