BY CAROL VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —
More than $27 million has been appropriated for dredging of federal waterways on the Eastern Shore — covering the federal navigation improvements the Eastern Shore Regional Navigable Waterways Committee has been fighting for since the committee’s inception eight years ago.
The fiscal year 2023 Army Corps of Engineers workplan was “significantly funded after years of minimal federal funding,” according to an email from John Joeckel, ESRNW committee chairman.
The committee develops a list of priorities for navigational and coastal resilience projects and submits it to the Norfolk District of the Army Corps.
“This list year after year was not funded until now,” Joeckel said.
All federal navigation projects the committee had on its priority list are now funded, Joeckel said.
“These federal funds do not of course include the potential funding for our state waterway projects from the Waterway Maintenance Funds, nor does this list include the coastal resilience projects for the Cedar Island CAP 204 project, but it does include the beneficial use of the Chincoteague Channel dredge sediment for Assateague and the $300,000 for the Tangier Island study concerning the potential $25 million Baltimore Channel dredge sediment, but does not include the $1.5 million for the in-depth beneficial use study for Tangier,” Joeckel wrote.
Included is $250,000 for the Chincoteauge Harbor of Refuge; $3.375 milion for the Chincoteague Inlet, including beneficial use disposal of spoils on Assateague; $4.275 milion for Deep Creek; $2.2 milion for the Little Machipongo River; $700,000 for Onancock Creek; $3.544 million for Parker Creek; $2.917 million for Quinby Creek; $1.705 million for Starlings Creek, for a contract to prepare the placement site for dredge material; $2.884 million for Tangier Channels; $300,000 to study beneficial use of Baltimore Harbor dredging material on Tangier; and $4.975 million for two segments of the Waterway on the Coast of Virginia —either Lewis Creek or Chesapeake-Magothy, and either Wachapreague or Bradfords channel.
The funds were appropriated in the Army Corps civil works budget.
Much of the civil works budget is funded by the Harbor Maintenance Fee, established in 1986 and collected on imports, domestic shipments, Foreign-Trade Zone admissions, and passengers.
The fee is assessed based on the value of the shipment.
Funds for federal navigation projects are split between deep water and shallow draft projects, with shallow draft projects — waterways 14 feet or less in depth — competing for funding and only receiving around 10% of the total funding, according to Joeckel.
Most of the Shore’s federal waterways are shallow draft.
“Most years the Eastern Shore does not receive any funds, say $2 million for the Shore every two years or so, enough for one navigation project — although this year, we hit the jackpot,” Joeckel said.
There is a backlog of navigation projects in the United States “in the $100 billion range, so many projects nationwide go without funding,” Joekel said.
Each of the projects funded will take around 18 months to begin, “since it takes that long to do all the necessary pre-dredging work,” including surveys, engineering, permitting, disposal planning, bid proposals, and contract negotiations.
Additionally, many of the Shore’s waterways are state, rather than federal, and must be maintained using state money.
Sen. Lynwood Lewis and Del. Rob Bloxom in 2018 sponsored successful legislation that established a Waterways Maintenance Fund for Virginia, which is administered by the Virginia Port Authority.
The ESRNW committee submits applications to the Virginia Port Authority each year for state waterway dredging.
“We have so far been using the funds for pre-dredging work, hydraulic surveys, permitting, engineering drawings, sediment disposal plans, etc., etc.,” Joeckel wrote, adding, “We are hopeful to commence our first actual dredging project this fall on Kings Creek and if we are fortunate to receive the appropriate grants from the WMF, Nassawadox Creek after New Years 2024.”