NORFOLK, Va. -- On the Eastern Shore’s lacey, Atlantic-facing coast, two main channels in Finney Creek and Bradford Bay cut their way inland toward the Victorian-era town of Wachapreague, Virginia.
The channels, which provide tourism and commerce to Wachapreague and navigation abilities to the U.S. Coast Guard, have naturally silted over time, but the process was given a significant nudge by Hurricane Sandy.
For several months, the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepared and begun to implement plans to dredge the channels.
“This project is necessary to repair navigation impacts,” said Kerry Kennedy, Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager. “That particular area of coastline is important to the U.S. Coast Guard, Accomack County and the Wachapreague community.”
The Norfolk District has the opportunity to dredge both channels to 6 feet below mean lower low water, or average low water heights of each tidal day, as part of Hurricane Sandy recovery work.
A recent meeting with local stakeholders to discuss the dredging, which is slated to begin later this summer, allowed a slew of Corps experts to answer the stakeholders’ questions.
At the table, Chris Wardius with the Wachapreague Inn asked about the timing of the dredging.
“The timing of the dredging could affect tourism, and be a problem for boaters,” Wardius said, voicing his concern about a dredging vessel becoming a navigational obstacle in the channel.
Local Coast Guard representatives had similar concerns about the dredge cutter working in the channel.
“If we need to get underway for an urgent search and rescue, can the dredge be moved?” asked Chief Petty Officer Charles Gordon.
The stakeholders’ concerns are exactly why the Corps holds these kinds of meetings with their clients, Kennedy said.
“The stakeholder meeting allowed us to ramp up awareness on our plan -- project success is really a team effort and everyone must do their part to complete it on time, safely and within budget,” Kennedy said. “This meeting included everyone that is key to having this project be successful and to gain an understanding of all the components that must take place from each organization and stakeholders’ points of view.”
Kennedy said concerns, like tourism and search and rescue operations, are considered when Norfolk District writes a contract for a project – in the case of Wachapreague, the dredging will be scheduled to limit impacts on the local economy, and the dredge cutter will move in the case of a Coast Guard has a SAR mission.
For Wachapreague Town Council’s John Joeckel, the dredging is welcome in a town where many survive on fishing and their ability to navigate the channel.
“We’re just happy it’s being done,” he said.