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Commercial Fishermen Upset Over Army Corp of Engineers Decision

The commercial harbor in Ocean City, seen from Chopper 16.

Posted on May 22, 2023

The Army Corp of Engineers have officially decided to not move forward with a permanent solution for Ocean City’s Inlet. The channels dynamic environment causes shoal to buildup, but the Army Corp felt dredging was the better and cheaper solution.

In a meeting on Tuesday, May 16th, Daniel Bierly with the Army Corp told commissioners after studying the inlet, it came back that a permanent solution would only reduce the need for dredging by 50%. And with a $16 million price tag, they felt it was simply to expensive.

Commercial fishermen we spoke with however are disappointed and feel like they’re running out of options.

Mike Coppa, a commercial fishermen, said a permanent solution is the only way forward.

“Fix the inlet, $16 million or whatever it takes, $16 million is cheap as far as I’m concerned,” said Coppa.

Less than two months ago, Coppa’s fishing vessel got stuck in the commercial harbor, which is one reason he feels dredging, which happens in the inlet twice a year, isn’t working.

“It’s not enough, the solution is to fix the inlet and it’s jut another band-aid and it won’t work, it hasn’t worked the past 10 to 15 years and it’s getting worse,” said Coppa. “They’re basically driving the commercial fishery out of this inlet.”

Merrill Campbell, another commercial fishermen, said he wasn’t 100% sure why the shoal keeps building up, but feels like beach replenishment could be a factor.

“My opinion is that the beach replenishment, the sand is washing in here and it’s been going on for quite a while,” said Campbell. “They[Army Corp] budget money to put sand on the beach, I understand to save peoples homes, but it should be part of that budget to take the sand back out that they produce.”

When they dredge, the Army Corp uses shallow water hopper dredges. County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic asked Bierly if hydraulic dredging would be a possible solution.

“I understand that the hydraulic dredges may not be preferred, but if we’re dumping out there and it’s shoaling out at the head of the inlet and some of it’s coming back around into where we just dredged, it’s counterproductive,” said Mitrecic.

Bierly said hydraulic dredges could work and could allow for more material to be pulled out of the inlet. However, Bierly said getting a hydraulic dredge in place is not a simple process.

“It takes years to line up a project like that, so it’s really not a reliable way to do it, maybe a one and done, could be done that way,” said Bierly.

Bierly added pulling up more material during each dredge could be the best move, but with the inlets dynamic environment, it’s tough to pinpoint a perfect solution.

At this point, county commissioners say they’re getting the sense a permanent solution is completely off the table. So they’re hoping the Army Corp can either dredge more often or pull out more material when they do dredge.


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