Sussex County Delaware

DNREC Approves
Assawoman Dredging

Permits Must Still be
Obtained from Army Corps

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has ordered that the appropriate permits, with conditions, be issued to DNREC's Division of Parks and Recreation for dredging the Assawoman Canal.

The order was delivered by Deputy Secretary David Small. Secretary John A. Hughes recused himself from the decision making due to his past involvement as the director of the Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

Assawoman Canal, Ocean View, DelawareThe Order states that the record for the application "demonstrates compliance with applicable regulations and provides for reasonable and appropriate measures to mitigate potential adverse impacts while, at the same time, conferring significant benefits on the public as a whole in furtherance of statutory policies and purposes."

Environmentalists have been opposed to the dredging, saying it would disturb what has become habitat for birds and fish. Steve Callanen of Quillens Point north of Ocean View, a member of The Sierra Club, said the club would have to decide whether it would file an appeal. Appeals of the order must be filed within 20 days.

The Assawoman Canal is a nearly 4-mile long, man-made canal extending from White Creek in Ocean View to the Little Assawoman Bay in South Bethany. The project will include dredging of a 35-foot wide channel the length of the canal to a depth of 3 feet below mean low water to enhance boating recreation.

The Division of Soil and Water Conservation is agent and contractor for the Division of Parks and Recreation and will be performing the work. The Division of Parks and Recreation manages the canal and adjacent land. Both mechanical and hydraulic means will be used to dredge 34,000 cubic yards of material.

The material will be disposed of at two confined disposal facilities; another possible disposal site along the ocean coastline at Bethany Beach could also be used for a portion of the operation. In addition to the dredging activity, 220 feet of the western bank of the canal will be stabilized with rip-rap.

During a hearing on the dredging in November 2002, Chuck Williams, of DNREC's Division of Soil and Water Conservation, estimated it would take two to three years to complete the project.

The Division of Parks and Recreation has also applied for, but not yet received, a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Conditions incorporated into the order to mitigate environmental and public interest impacts were supported and recommended by DNREC's hearing examiner and initially recommended by the Division of Water Resources' Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section, which received the permit application on Aug. 1, 2002 and submitted a response document following a public hearing on Nov. 13, 2002. The Section also recommended monitoring of the dredging activity to evaluate the impacts.

Permit conditions, including those to be considered as management tools during dredging activity, include the following:

  • Establish and enforce a no-wake zone to minimize noise impacts and promote safety on the canal and to minimize impacts of boat wakes on the slopes and aquatic species. Also, consider a ban on jet skies.

  • Restrict dredging from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 annually to protect fisheries. If dredging occurs between Nov. 1 and April 15 annually, examine dredged material to determine whether diamondback terrapin are being impacted.

  • Undertake snagging and clearing operations in a manner that provides navigation safety but also encourages biological activity. Prior to operations, a DNREC team should mark the area to minimize vegetation removal.

  • Redesign proposed rip-rap structure to incorporate soil bioengineering in the bank stabilization and woody vegetation along the banks. Design future bank stabilization projects to use soil bioengineering to enhance habitat.

  • Provide that slopes of the canal above +2 feet mean high water are terraced and/or vegetated to stabilize the soils from sliding.

  • Plant appropriate vegetation within the inter-tidal zone along both shorelines of the canal. Plant additional vegetation on the slopes and riparian buffer areas to enhance habitat and stabilize the banks.

  • Monitor dissolved oxygen and enterococcus bacterial levels in the canal and adjacent water bodies to evaluate impacts of dredging on water quality.

  • Mark navigation channel.

  • Use coffer dams and/or turbidity curtains during construction to minimize turbidity impacts.

  • Use watertight trucks for hauling material.

  • Prohibit marina development on applicant's (Division of Parks and Recreation) land so as not to encourage additional boating traffic.
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