Fenwick moves ahead with channel dredging plan

The Fenwick Island Town Council has agreed to hire a Lewes engineering firm to design, bid and manage the dredging of two channels crucial to the ability of boats to navigate waters in that area.

The council voted at its Friday, Aug. 23, meeting to hire Anchor QEA and to spend $60,000 for the firm’s services, coming from funds reserved specifically for a dredging project.

Ram Mohan, principal engineer and project manager for Anchor QEA, has overseen other projects in the area, including back-bay dredging in Ocean City, Md., and sea-level rise studies in South Bethany. He presented the proposal for the Fenwick project and answered questions about it, along with the town’s consultant, Tony Pratt.

Pratt encouraged residents to complete a Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control survey on dredging, because the survey will help DNREC prioritize future dredging projects.

The survey seeks information on “user needs within the Inland Bays navigation system,” Pratt said. “The money follows the voice,” he added, “and the voice of you all needs to be heard” — especially because the need for navigable waterways extends far beyond Fenwick’s immediate bayside.

“You need to speak up, and this is the vehicle by which you can do it,” Pratt said of the survey. “This is an opportunity for DNREC to measure the need, and perhaps … the amount of trouble there is out there, and why some of you who maybe would have boats don’t have boats, or those of you that have boats, they sit on the land more than they should,” he said.

He added that some homeowners and Realtors are finding that water access that should be a selling point for a property doesn’t turn out to be, thanks to lack of navigability of nearby waters.

The survey has been posted on the town’s website, at www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov.

Fenwick’s proposed dredging project involves removing an estimated 12,000 cubic yards of sediment from two channel areas. The dredged materials would be placed on farmlands along the back-bay area of the Little Assawoman Bay, according to correspondence between Anchor QEA’s Mohan and Fenwick Island Town Manager Terry Tieman.

The material would be hydraulically dredged and carried by pipeline to the area known as the Thompson Farm.

The first two phases of the project would involve the engineering design of the project and the production of a bid package with recommendations from the firm for town officials to review. The town council will ultimately determine which firm would be awarded the construction contract for the project.

The second phase involving Anchor QEA would include its oversight of the as-yet-to-be determined contractor during the construction phase of the dredging project. The dredging would be completed during a two-week period during the winter months.

Former council member Roy Williams asked the council at the Aug. 23 meeting whether it is within the Town’s legal rights to spend money on projects that are not located within the town limits — referring to the channels that are technically offshore of Fenwick. He said the question of the legality of such an expenditure was posed to him “about a month ago” by former mayor Peter Frederick.

“The answer is yes,” Council Member Vicki Carmean said, confirming the expenditure is permitted.

Mayor Eugene Langan replied, “We spend money on beach replenishment, and we don’t own the beach.”

Tieman said she had checked with Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox, who told her that the Town is “getting a benefit out of it, you’re getting a property enhancement benefit, and you’re getting a safety benefit out of it — so yes, it’s very legal.”


By Kerin Magill

Staff Reporter