End of Snug Harbor Dredging Leaves Boat Owners Stuck in Mud

End of Snug Harbor Dredging Leaves Boat Owners Stuck in Mud

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Snug Harbor sits mostly empty on Tuesday, Dec. 29 as a contractor prepared to stop dredging work.

 

The boat slip at Sandy Beyel’s upscale home overlooking Snug Harbor remains empty for the third year in a row.

Low tide at Snug Harbor on Thursday, Aug. 27, the day City Council approved spending more than $997,000 to make it six feet deeper.
Low tide at Snug Harbor on Thursday, Aug. 27, the day City Council approved spending more than $997,000 to make it six feet deeper.

Next door, a 34-foot boat belonging to Ed May, Beyel’s neighbor, has been bottled up at its dock since last summer.

Beyel, May and other homeowners at Snug Harbor are frustrated by the muck that clogs the small lagoon off Bay Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets in Ocean City.

A dredging project that began in the fall was supposed to finally clear the waterway of mud and silt, but the contractor performing the work for the city has run out of time to complete the nearly $1 million job. The dredging stopped on Thursday, Dec. 31.

Jim Mallon, the city’s business administrator, said that Wickberg Marine Contracting Inc. must wrap up the work because seasonal environmental restrictions prohibit dredging starting Jan 1.

The regulations are designed to protect the shellfish and blue claw crabs living in Snug Harbor from excavation work, Mallon said. He believes the restrictions are in place “deep into spring,” meaning that dredging operations could not resume at least until then.

An excavator scoops mud from the mouth of Snug Harbor on Friday, Nov. 6.
An excavator scoops mud from the mouth of Snug Harbor on Friday, Nov. 6.

Mallon said the city must conduct a survey to determine exactly how much work Wickberg was able to complete. He estimated that more than half of the project was finished.

Residents complained that they will have to endure even more delays before the lagoon is freed from the sediment. The muddy morass has trapped the few boats that remain in Snug Harbor and left most slips empty.

“We’re extremely frustrated,” said Beyel, whose home is perched above the water at the end of Eighth Street. “Part of this whole thing is that we have mudflats along our boat slips.”

Beyel, whose family has lived on the property since 1949, remembers swimming in Snug Harbor while she was growing up.

Now, the lagoon is choked with so much sediment that it is practically dry at low tide. There is only about a foot or two of water around the slips at high tide, preventing all but the smallest of boats from traveling through the lagoon, Beyel said.

“My boat slip has been empty for three years,” she said. “I couldn’t even rent a slip to somebody.”

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May who has lived at Snug Harbor for 25 years, said his boat is marooned at low tide. He hasn’t had it out of the lagoon since last summer. He said most of his neighbors have moved their boats elsewhere.

“We haven’t been able to use our slips in years,” May said, gazing out at rows of vacant docks.

Wickberg Marine, as part of its $937,900 contract with the city, was supposed to dredge 14,000 cubic yards of sediment from Snug Harbor at a depth of six feet. The work area extends from the Bay Avenue bulkhead to a 150-square-foot “box” at the mouth of the lagoon, leading to the channel.

However, the excavation project did not include dredging the private slips owned by the Snug Harbor residents.

The city had hoped the work would be done by November, long before the dredging window closed, Mallon said. But the project was slowed by the tedious process of disposing of the sediment once it is scooped from the bottom by a crane and then barged to a temporary storage site under the Ninth Street Bridge.

Mallon noted the gooey, pudding-like material is not drying out as quickly as expected, which has hampered the contractor from loading it into trucks and hauling it away to a Wildwood landfill.

“There were certainly some challenges for the contractor,” he said.

Although the dredging must stop at year’s end, the contractor can continue to remove the sediment from the disposal site once it dries out, Mallon said.

In the meantime, Snug Harbor’s homeowners are angry that they were unable to get Wickberg Marine to dredge their boat slips at their own expense.

Both Beyel and May said the company told homeowners that it would be unable to finish all of the slips by Dec. 31, so it decided not to do any of them.

“This guy told us he’s not going to do it. He’s done,” Beyel said, referring to the contractor.

Snug Harbor is by far the worst of the city’s clogged lagoons, Mallon said. The city has hired consultant ACT Engineering to devise a comprehensive plan for dredging the back bays and lagoons from one end of town to the other.

It is not immediately clear whether the city would bid out another contract to complete Snug Harbor’s dredging in 2016. Mallon said the city first needs to analyze the amount of work that Wickberg has done.

May asserted that the city should do its own dredging work instead of relying on outside contractors. He believes the city would maintain more control of the projects and complete the work faster.

“The city would be better off to do it, back and forth,” May said.

Mallon responded that might be an idea for the city to consider, but questioned whether it would be more expensive than simply hiring a dredging contractor.

Snug Harbor’s homeowners may still have the option of hiring their own contractor to dredge their boat slips if the city resumes dredging in the area in 2016, Mallon said.

For homeowners, that would be expensive. Beyel, for instance, said it would cost $10,700 to dredge her slip.

“But on the other hand, if the slip’s not dredged, what happens to our property values?” Beyel asked. “We live on the water and have a beautiful location, but we have incurred high taxes. If we can’t use the water, what are we paying high taxes for?”