Posted on April 5, 2023
After weeks of trying to get answers from DNREC, and asking Sen. Gerald Hocker and Rep. Ron Gray to intercede, Cristy Lane resident James Bew was elated Tuesday morning when dredging finally began in his Ocean View neighborhood, as part of the $4.7 million White Creek dredging project.
“I am incredibly pleased. I am jumping up and down. If it could do cartwheels, I would. This has been such a long, arduous thing for me. It’s been a solid month trying to figure out what to do, how to get this turned around and the stonewalling from DNREC has been so difficult,” Bew told Coastal Point at midweek.
“But they turned that dredge around and brought it back before the dredging company left town and the contract was up on March 31,” Bew said, praising Hocker and Gray, who, he said, have proven their commitment to constituents.
“There has been a lot of bad blood in this. I firmly believe it was Gray and Hocker that made this happen. I can guarantee it was not DNREC. There was a lot of pushing back and forth,” Bew said.
He and neighbors asked that the eastern prong be dredged because their boats, and others’, were getting stuck in mud and were often unable to return to their boat slips, depending on tides.
But DNREC officials denied the request, saying that area had never been dredged before and would have to be done separately, not as maintenance, as the current project is classified, even though Cristy Lane neighbors produced evidence of previous dredging.
Sean McCann, operations manager for the dredging company, ResilientSeas, headquartered in Peabody, Mass, told Coastal Point this week dredging of a section of White Creek was completed on Saturday, March 25, six days before the contract ended. Workers were ready to pull out equipment and prepare to leave when they received word that the eastern prong would be worked on.
The dredge arrived in the Cristy Lane area around 2 p.m. Monday afternoon after DNREC sent several conflicting e-mails directing the company to dredge the area, then not to, then saying it would be too expensive and finally agreeing to let work begin.
“We got e-mails to proceed then ‘Don’t proceed.’ Then ‘We don’t understand the cost’ then they said it was too expensive … Monday at 1, we got word to proceed. We are trying to do what’s right for the residents of the area. We have always strived to be good contractors and do a good job for all stakeholders,” McCann said.
He said he didn’t know the additional cost to dredge that eastern prong because it hasn’t yet been determined how much material has to be removed. When DNREC officials questioned the cost, they were referring to the ballpark cost, based on a 12-hour shift, McCann said.
“There was some flipflopping back and forth last week —– to dredge it, not to dredge it … In all my years in this business — and I’m going on 17 years — I have never had this before but it doesn’t make me angry …. Stuff like this happens,” McCann said.
DNREC officials could not be reached for comment and have not replied to several previous requests from Coastal Point.
McCann said he hoped there would be enough time to finish the eastern prong before the contract ended on Friday. If the company continued to work after the contract ended, it would be heavily fined.
“A lot of trash came washing down from upstream from storm drains — tires, hubcaps, wheels — and it clogged our equipment. There could have been a flooding event at one time or maybe somebody is dumping illegally. That stuff sinks to the bottom, then it will get sedimented over so you don’t’ see it until the dredge uncovers it.
“Some stuff is expected but that amount of debris was not expected. The tires and hubcaps we came across were not expected. There were some hurdles we’re accustomed to, but a lot on this job was unexpected.
“From a technical standpoint, though, what they wanted to achieve, we were able to accomplish it. Restoration to the eco system will, in the long run, be a benefit, but as far as the actual execution of the project, clear direction can go a long way. We are working the best we can,” he said,
“We have no animosity toward DNREC. If there is a problem there is always a solution,” McCann said.
As of midweek, ResilientSeas officials didn’t know if they would be returning in September to finish dredging White Creek. The company requested returning then, since they were delayed for a month because they didn’t get the permit from DNREC on time.
McCann said they were told last week they would get an answer by Monday this week, but hadn’t heard anything.