Wicomico River dredging continuing

Dredging of the Wicomico River is expected to continue into May, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works on the waterway.

“They are dredging right now. Over 100,000 cubic yards are being dredged. They are about at the halfway point,” explained Weston Young, assistant director of administration.

Dredging is necessary for local companies.

“CATO gets oil by barge. Perdue gets grain by barge. Vulcan gets stone and aggregate by barge. Chesapeake Shipbuilding builds some amazing vessels. We are second large port in Maryland, after Baltimore.

“If CATO couldn’t get fuel by barge, I have heard the price would jump several cents, 7 to 10 cents. It’s cheaper to barge in certain things than to truck it, so dredging is critical,” Young said.

“The beauty of dredging in Ocean City, where the inlet is, is, it’s mostly sand and that sand can then be put back onto the beaches. What’s we’re dredging on the Wicomico tends to be a mix of material. There can be highly organic content. It’s more of a silty sort of slop. The farther you get out in the bay, they more it becomes pure sand.

“The ideal dredge material placement site is, you dig it up and you make berms and you just pump this material into it. You build these giant berms and you fill it up with material you dredged out of the river,” Young said.

Around the time he was appointed assistant director of administration, workers had just filled the county’s last dredge site, near the Red Roost, and officials were struggling to decide where new spoils would be stored.

It was determined that more than 250 feet of shoreline washed away during a 40-year period, leading to the rebuilding of shoreline. The solution was to use coir logs.

Made of coconut fiber, the logs are stacked and tied together. Dredged material is placed behind it, allowing water to seeps out.

“Coir logs are used to stop erosion. They are in there now. They staked them over the water. The dredged material is pumped. Over time, it will settle.  Once they fill these areas up, they will replant them with vegetation,” Young said.

In the past when waterways have been dredged, the county paid for land acquisition. Wicomico County paid $30,000 for the last site. This time, though, the federal government is paying for the entire project.

Comparing Wicomico dredging to a similar project in the Baltimore Harbor, Young said Baltimore has “far worse material than ours.”

“Their material has been going to Poplar Island and it’s been rebuilding an island out there. And, I’ve read good things in the Bay Journal about increased wildlife habitats,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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