OCEAN PINES — With the proposed replacement of the dilapidated, county-owned public boat ramp at Gum Point Rd. on the Turville Creek moving forward, area environmental advocates are urging the partners to go the “extra mile” to voluntarily include some elements to improve water quality in the impaired waterway.
A project is underway to remove the existing public boat ramp at Gum Point Rd. just off Route 589 south of Ocean Pines and replacing it with a new, larger structure. The boat ramp is owned and maintained by Worcester County, although the state is funding the proposed boat ramp replacement and the federal Army Corps of Engineers has oversight because the ramp extends into the creek.
The existing public boat ramp is 17 feet wide by 20 feet long. The replacement ramp will also be 17 feet wide, but its length will extend 64 feet. While the end of the ramp extending into the water will not be lengthened, the landward side of the ramp will be excavated further back into the existing paved parking area with bulkheads on either side.
The current facility includes a large, paved parking area that slopes toward the paved boat ramp itself, which causes stormwater run-off to flow directly into the creek. While almost no one disagrees with the need to replace the ramp, local environmental advocates are urging the project partners to consider some low cost alterations in the design to reduce runoff into the already impaired Turville Creek and its watershed.
Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program are urging the local, state and federal partners involved to tweak the project plans to include some changes that could greatly improve water quality in the creek and surrounding waterways.
To that end, Phillips met yesterday morning with Army Corps of Engineers biologist Laura Shively for a tour of the existing ramp and to point out a few subtle changes to the design that would not greatly alter the plan.
“There is an opportunity here to set an example and the things we’re thinking about wouldn’t be expensive,” said Phillips.
Phillips explained Turville Creek is already impaired with nutrients, bacteria and sediment. The creek suffers from low dissolved oxygen levels and sediment and runoff from the developed areas on both sides of the waterway.
“This side of the creek is mostly on septic and most have been upgraded, but there are quite a few that have not been,” she said. “When I would do water quality monitoring through here, the levels would often spike way up in the summer. The readings were way above the state standards. In some cases, the state standard might be 104 and I was getting readings in the 500 range. … We don’t want to interfere with the building of a better boat ramp … We just don’t want to jeopardize these living shorelines because they’re the best project the county has done in a long time.”