(Feb. 8, 2019) The Worcester County Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of a joint partnership for the Ocean City Harbor and Inlet project at their meeting Tuesday in Snow Hill.
The partnership agreement between the Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and county commissioners aims to deepen the inlet’s channel to 16 feet, and the harbor’s channel to 14 feet, according to the agreement proposal.
The dredging material from the inlet would be taken to near-shore locations for the Assateague Island Restoration Project, and the harbor dredging materials would go to a land-based site, according to the project proposal.
The commissioners approved $300,000 in funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at a Jan. 22 meeting. The money would go towards the Ocean City Inlet project.
Robert Mitchell, director of environmental programs, noted the significant expense of the project. He said the county and state’s department of natural resources are responsible for $1.7 million.
“We have exposure if the project goes over budget or under the $10 million limit of Corps,” Mitchell said in a proposal.
Throughout the course of the project, he said several payments would be made to the Corps: $222,180 due Feb. 13, and $630,000 around fall 2020, according to the agreement. Mitchell added a final $852,180 payment would go to the federal treasury around the end of the project.
Commissioner Bud Church said he recently received an email from a waterman who sustained $41,000 in damage to his boat when he came through the inlet.
“The inlet is filling probably twice as fast as we ever anticipated,” Church said. “So I think this is a problem.”
Joshua Nordstrom asked for clarification from the other commissioners on the Town of Ocean City’s involvement in the project.
“Well, in all honesty, the town of Ocean City does contribute,” Mitrecic said. “They contribute to the county government’s fund to the tune of over 50 percent.”
Mitrecic said the inlet services the West Ocean City harbor, but is not actually in Ocean City. He added the county rents slips out of the harbor, and profits from its taxes and fuel sales.
“It is a major investment for the county as a whole, Ocean City has chosen not to be a part of it for their reasons,” Mitrecic said. “They feel that because they are 50 to 60 percent of the county’s budget, they are part of it in that sense.”
Mitrecic made a motion to approve the partnership, with Church offering a second.