Posted on October 26, 2022
Officials in Fenwick Island last week voted to approve a contract that will support the town’s efforts to dredge areas of the Little Assawoman Bay.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted 6-0, with Councilman Paul Breger abstaining, to approve a $63,000 contract with Anchor QEA for research, surveying and engineering design related to the town’s dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay.
Councilman Bill Rymer, chair of the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee, told council members the consulting work would be funded using money from the town’s dredging account.
“It’s not requesting $63,000,” he said. “It’s highlighting a recommendation coming from the dredging committee that we enter into the amended agreement with our consulting firm for two separate tasks … The action items – the two large tasks reflected in the recommendations – are surveys, sediment analyses and hydrodynamic modeling to determine construction heights, perimeter material placement and overall design for a reconstituted Seal Island.”
Plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town hired Tony Pratt, former administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to guide them through the funding and permitting processes. By the following year, Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, was brought on board to provide design, bidding and construction managements services.
Simply put, the dredging project is expected to address shoaling in the back-bay system and connect boating channels along Fenwick’s bayside canals to the main channel in the Little Assawoman Bay. As part of that effort, roughly 19,000 cubic feet of dredged material would be moved to another site – potentially Seal Island – for reuse.
“We have had verbal approval from the state to use Seal Island,” Rymer told council members. “Three weeks ago, we were told the letter has been drafted. It’s now awaiting a final signature. It appears Seal Island will be the direction we are going.”
Rymer noted that while the contract would require $63,000 for surveying and engineering design, it did not include the additional $68,500 that would be needed to complete the necessary permit applications for dredging work.
“After these next two phases, the last piece of the consulting puzzle and permitting process is doing all the documentation, filing the permits, going through the review process,” he said. “That last phase will likely cost $68,500, but we’re not asking for that yet. We want to proceed with the first two tasks. Likely in our next meeting with the dredging committee, we will likely approve that last phase because it has to start in December or January.”
Rymer noted that permit applications must be completed by March 31.
“If we get all that done and get the applications in for the permits by March 31, we expect the permits could take up to seven months for review, which means we cannot start construction until November 1, and we have a three- or four-month window to get it done,” he added. “There is a dredging window, when you can do this construction work.”
Rymer told council members that conversations and negotiations with the state of Delaware – Seal Island’s owner – had gotten the town to the design and permitting process. He noted that funds to complete the next phase of the project would only be spent once the town received a letter of support from state officials.
“Yes, we’re awaiting that letter, but we need to start proceeding on some of these other consulting tasks,” he said. “My goal is to hold the fees back as much as possible until we get that letter.”
With no further discussion, the council voted 6-0, with Breger abstaining, to approve the $63,000 contract with Anchor QEA for the next step in the town’s dredging project.
“We’re not asking for additional funds at this point, but we will likely be coming back at the December meeting with that request,” Rymer said.
Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said she was pleased to hear the town was moving forward in its efforts to not only dredge the Little Assawoman Bay, but to restore Seal Island, which has submerged in recent years.
“If we can get it done and reconstitute Seal Island, I think that’s a legacy for Fenwick Island we should all be proud of …,” she said. “Seal Island was always sort of a beacon. It would be nice to have it back.”