Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Shoaling, environment and navigation focus of study 

By Remy Andersen, Staff Writer

(Sept. 14, 2023) A study of the Ocean City inlet that was conducted 25 years ago was given a long overdue update with a letter sent recently to the US Army Corp of Engineers in Baltimore.

The 1998 Ocean City, Maryland Water Resources Study, Feasibility Report and Integrated Environmental Impact Statement was approved to be updated by the Worcester County Commissioners last week.

Bob Mitchell, the director of Environmental Programs, said that the intent for this updated study is to bring to light the continued shoaling issues present as well as other navigational and physical environmental changes made to the inlet area since the last study was conducted.

“Shoaling has gotten exponentially worse in the coastal bays since Hurricane Sandy hit in 2013,” Mitchell said. “It’s just gotten to a point where aggressive action is needed.”

The corps had notified the county’s Department of Environmental Programs back in March that it was not going to fund the inlet jetty improvement project. Mitchell said this study would serve as a more long-term solution moving forward.

“The currents are starting to shave off the northwestern part of the island, as well as sand being deposited in the inlet area,” said Mitchell, highlighting the effects of shoaling being brought to the area.

“Only one ship at a time can pass through Sunset Harbor and the West Ocean City commercial harbor, which isn’t good for navigation or traffic. So the canyon between the 11 and 12 buoys marking off the entrance to Sunset Harbor needs to be widened for safety and navigational purposes.”

These issues pose a problem to commercial fisherman, as bumping the boat on the bottom in any way could cause damage and ultimately put the fishermen out of commission, as they undertook  expensive boat repairs.

Short-term solutions that the department considered included more aggressive dredging, removing material from the shoals near the western inlet navigational buoys, direct sand placement on the northern part of Assateague Island, and occasionally relocating buoys so optimum navigation can be achieved.

The study itself aims to develop water resource projects for the coastal bays, and to lessen the adverse impact caused by past corps projects.

“A lot of it is trying to restore the sediment transportation system,” Mitchell said.

In approaching the study, Mitchell and the department intend to view the issues being brought to the inlet area holistically.

“There’s a lot of new information and a lot of new movement with the sediment transport that needs to be looked at,” Mitchell said.

The commissioners recommended that the department partner with the Department of Natural Resources, the Town of Ocean City, and the Federal Park Service, indicating that the Army Corps letter should be sent to every department.