Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ocean City Shoreline Restoration Project A Good One

Traditionally, shorelines have been stabilized the hard way, using bulkheads and other methods that do the job but at a significant cost to the environment. As years go by, waves hitting hard barriers can harm submerged shoreline, keep marshes from forming and block the drift of sandy sediment along the shore, causing erosion.

Such is the case at a 600-foot shoreline on the north side of Robin Dr. that houses a lagoon that is a tributary of Isle of Wight Bay. The existing bulkhead there is falling apart, sheeting is rotting away, and soil is leaking into the watershed. The dilapidated structure is no longer functioning as intended and must be replaced.

With the already-received unanimous support of the Ocean City Council, McGean plans to restore the area by replacing the bulkhead with marsh. The project will also include a crabbing peer at the site of an existing boat basin. Restoring the shoreline that houses the 150-foot lagoon may seem like a small endeavor, but it will have significant environmental, recreational and aesthetic benefits.

In fact, the project meets several goals of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Replacing this hard structure with the soft marsh will protect an existing shoreline while also creating more than half an acre of new tidal wetlands. The crabbing pier will provide increased public access, thereby meeting another goal of enhancing sustainable recreational use.

Still in the conceptual design phase, restoring the shoreline and building the crabbing pier will cost about $130,000. The city has applied to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a shoreline erosion control loan to pay for the construction. While not yet a done deal, DNR representatives have toured the site and indicated it would be eligible for such a loan.

The bulkhead has to go. Removing the unsightly and dysfunctional structure and putting in its place the softer, self protective marsh will reduce erosion, create habitat and improve water quality, while at the same time provide another opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy our coastal bays.

Simply put, this restoration project is just plain smart. McGean and the council should be applauded for recognizing that replacing outdated structures with environmentally sound measures is good for everyone.

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