Ocean City Today

West OC still floods, help limited from gov’t

Drainage issues plague community for years, but SHA, county can do little
By Katie Tabeling | Sep 14, 2017

(Sept. 15, 2017) Roads and yards in West Ocean City continue to be washed out during storms, but there’s little state and county officials can do to stop it.

“The problem can be traced back in 1950s, when there was a boom in development here and before there were any critical area laws to help with stormwater management. It doesn’t help that we’re at zero sea level,” said Carolyn Cummins, a West Ocean City resident and former chair of the Worcester County Planning Commission.

“There were roughly 100 lots and none had considered that with all the impermeable surfaces — the roads or whatever structures — will block water. And it’s got to go somewhere.”

Even though West Ocean City is unincorporated, it has the makings of a beach community, with restaurants, drug stores, a grocery store and two schools nearby.

Like Ocean City, it has suffered some growing pains with its infrastructure following the construction boom. Since a majority of the resort’s neighborhoods were built during the 1970s and 1980s, the roads were created by laying two inches of asphalt over dirt or sand.

West Ocean City seems to share this problem — Cummins installed a drain in her front garden and found sand four feet under the surface.

“If you look around, there’s not a lot of drains on the streets. Where they are, they get too much water and can’t drain properly,” Cummins said. “So it’s gathering on some roads and backing up to driveways.”

Problem areas include the Cape Isle of Wight neighborhood, the intersection of Center Drive and Golf Course road, and Old Ocean City Road. But since West Ocean City is a hodgepodge of state, county and private roads, there’s not one simple solution to the drainage issues.

The State Highway Administration has invested $2.74 million in the last three fiscal years in state roads in West Ocean City, namely milling and resurfacing. Roughly $457,000 was spent in fiscal year 2017 on Old Ocean City Road (Route 707).

“When we do work in West Ocean City, we traditionally clear out the stormwater pipes while we work,” SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said. “In some cases, we’ll replace pipes during these projects. We’re strong advocates in maintaining positive drainage.”

The SHA’s next resurfacing project will be on Route 611 to Bay Street at $1.4 million. Work is scheduled to start next spring.

On a county level, funding for road work is irregular since West Ocean City is one piece in a larger puzzle. The Worcester County Commissioners allocated $1 million for blacktop overlay in FY18, and recognized $753,095 in grants.

“For the Roads Division of Public Works, the entire budget on an annual basis is used to maintain approximately 596 miles of roads within Worcester County, including Ocean Pines,” Roads Superintendent Frank Adkins said in an email. “There is not a dedicated amount set aside for certain areas or roads within Worcester County, since weather and other unknown events can affect the condition of roads and drainage systems, unless we have a specific project to accomplish in a fiscal year.”

On a yearly basis, two county employees evaluate each road, based on factors such as surface cracking, sub-base conditions and traffic volume. Worcester County is responsible for any drainage in the county’s right-of-way, which includes driveway pipes and roadside ditches.

The dozens of private streets that have been paved since West Ocean City was built are the residents’ responsibility.

Cummins said all the property has been sold, government has no room to create any stormwater runoff management system. That means it’s time for property owners to take responsibility for the flooding, Cummins said.

“Government isn’t a solution to the problem. We tried that 30 years ago, and they asked us to pay into a public draining plan,” Cummins said. “It’s time to educate residents on what they can do — they can put in a rain garden, drain spouts and French drains. There are some solutions out there.”

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