ASSATEAGUE – The ongoing emergency repair effort by the
state and private contractors to restore the network of dunes along Assateague
Island battered by a series of winter storms neared it conclusion this week
with the finishing touches put on the replenishment project.
The convoy of trucks carrying tons and tons of sand day in
and day out down Route 611 in West Ocean City to Assateague Island have neared
the end of their mission as the effort to restore the barrier island’s dune
system devastated by winter storms is coming to a close this week. The dune
restoration project began in January and is practically finished, for all
intents and purposes, about a month ahead of schedule.
The joint project sponsored by the state’s Department of
Natural Resources and the Department of General Services, and carried out by
the private remediation company Marcor, was necessitated by the erosion of the
vast dune system on Assateague caused by a series of winter storms as well as
some man-made contributing factors.
According to MDGS area supervisor John Arford, the
expanded dune restoration project that began in January went far beyond the
normal maintenance projects for the barrier island.
“We do beach replenishment about every five years, but the
recent winter storms caused a lot of devastation to this area,” he said.
The project included moving and reconfiguring sand that
migrated naturally to Assateague, but much of the restoration material was
trucked in from other sources around Delmarva. For example, about 30,000 cubic
yards of sand was trucked in from a borrow pit in Millsboro, Del., some 30
miles away. Finding material suitable for deposit on Assateague was no easy
task, according to Marcor project manager Dwayne Austin.
“The sand we are bringing in must meet certain
specifications,” he said. “We had to locate sand pits throughout the region
that could possibly provide enough for this project. We ended up testing nine
pits of sand for the right texture and consistency and ended up finding only
three that were acceptable.”
Tons and tons of sand from the three pits around Delmarva
were trucked to Assateague by a convoy of trucks traveling back and forth on
Route 611 in the last few months with sometimes as many as 100 trips a day.
Once deposited at Assateague, Marcor crews used a large excavator and two
bulldozers every day to move the delivered sand into protective dunes located
farther from the shoreline than they were previously.
Initially, the existing dunes sat directly at the water
line at high tide and about 50 feet back from the waterline at extreme low
tides. With the emergency restoration effort, the new dune system sits about 50
feet back from the water line at high tide and around 100 feet back from the
shoreline at low tide.
All in all, the cooperative effort by the DNR and Marcor
restored about 5,000 linear feet of dune line on Assateague to protect the
island and its bustling ecosystem. Without the emergency repairs, the barrier
island was at risk of being overrun by extreme high tides, which could have
threatened the fragile flora and fauna including the famous ponies, the vast
sika deer population and several other threatened or endangered species.
The newly refurbished dunes average about 16 feet high at
their peaks and are about 85 feet wide at their bases, which is a far cry from
their condition following the devastation caused by storms and other factors
over the winter, according to Austin.
found dunes you could walk up to the peak, but once there, the other side of
the dune was sheared off with a straight-down drop,” he said.