The Need for Sand in Ocean City, Maryland
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The Ocean City Beach replenishment project, initiated in 1988, is a cooperative effort between the state of Maryland, Worcester County and Ocean City. The first phase of this project was intended to restore the recreational beaches to a uniform 67 meters in width, from an existing average of 40 meters. During the first phase of this project, shoals bearing sand similar to native Ocean City beach sands were found within state waters. Approximately 1.7 million cubic meters of sand were dredged from the shoals and pumped onto 13.4 kilometers of beach over a 5-month period, at a cost of $13.4 million.
In 1990, Phase 2 of the project began. A 13.8 kilometer hurricane protection dune was constructed with 2.7 million cubic meters of dredged sand. The sacrificial dune was designed to protect beach front property from damage by a 100-year storm. Phase 2 was completed and accepted by the State in December 1994.
The final phase of the project is the maintenance phase. The original restoration plan required between 535,000 and 764,000 cubic meters of dredged sand be placed on the beach every four years for the next 50 years. Since 1994, over 8 million cubic meters of offshore sand have been placed on Ocean City beaches. According to the original plan, an additional 9.2 million cubic meters of offshore sand will be required over the next 46 years.
In the four years following the end of Phase 2 (1998), a series of severe storms caused an accelerated replenishment schedule that greatly increased the amount of sand borrowed from shoal reserves within state waters. Beyond Ocean City's problems, northern Assateague Island was rapidly receding westward and losing volume due to the interruption of sand supplied by the predominantly southward flowing long shore transport. Stabilization of Ocean City Inlet has trapped sand flowing southward from Fenwick Island in an ebb tidal shoal. The USACE publication Ocean City and Vicinity Water Resources Feasibility Study (1998) recommended an immediate placement of 917,000 cubic meters of sand on Northern Assateague to prevent further breaching of the island. The Study further recommends an annual sand replenishment to northern Assateague of between 107,000 and 138,000 cubic meters. Both Fenwick and Northern Assateague Islands need a supply of sand to prevent further recession and loss of property. Clearly, a new source of offshore sand is needed for future nourishment projects.