Posted on January 2, 2023
DNREC announced recently that dredging is expected to begin just after the New Year on the main channel of White Creek and a short stretch of Assawoman Canal to improve navigability on the two waterways northwest of Bethany Beach in Sussex County. Dredged sediment from the project will be used to restore an area of degraded salt marsh at DNREC’s Assawoman Wildlife Area.
The $4.685 million project is being funded largely from appropriations to DNREC in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal-year budgets.
The project, to be undertaken by the DNREC section responsible for shoreline and waterway management and contractor ResilientSeas, will remove between 55,000 and 70,000 cubic yards of shoaled sediment. The work will restore the main White Creek navigation channel and the confluence of the Assawoman Canal to previous depths for safer boating and recreational use of both waterways.
DNREC identified White Creek and the Assawoman Canal as two of the top priorities for navigation improvements, based on surveys of residents and recreational users of the waterways, along with analysis of channel depth, boater safety and environmental issues. The White Creek navigation channel was last dredged as part of a phased program from 1997 through 2001. The Assawoman Canal was most recently dredged from 2010 to 2015.
Removal of derelict crab pots and other marine debris from the project area is expected to begin this month. Placement of the pipeline for dredged material will start in early January 2023. Dredging of the main channel is expected to begin in late January. Permit conditions require the dredging project to be completed by the end of March to minimize impacts to hibernating terrapins.
The U.S. Coast Guard will issue a Local Notice to Mariners advisory for boaters to exercise caution on both waterways and to maintain safe distance from the dredging activity. Floating and submerged pipelines will be positioned in White Creek, the Assawoman Canal and the eastern and western prongs of White Creek. Dredge and support vessels will be operating in the same areas over the course of the project.
The Coast Guard also recommends removing commercial fishing nets, crab pots and other structures from the dredging area.