OC Today WWW.OCEANCITYTODAY.NET
JULY 13, 2018
39TH ANNUAL CANOE RACES BJ’s on the Water to host event in the bay behind the 75th Street restaurant, July 17 – Page 26
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OC seeking helicopter stopper law Churchyard landing was completely legal
PHOTO COURTESY MATT JAMES
OMINOUS APPROACH Friday’s storm gave bathers plenty of notice, and wasn’t shy about its intentions as it bore down on the beach. This panoramic shot was captured by Ocean City Councilman Matt James, from the roof of the Atlantic Oceanfront Inn at 45th Street.
By Greg Ellison Staff Writer (July 13, 2018) Ocean City government is looking for the legal means to control where aircraft may land in the resort, following a helicopter’s surprise landing last Tuesday in St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church parking lot on 17th Street. Police went to the area around 8 p.m. after being advised of the chopper’s presence and questioned pilot Casey Love with Charm City Helicopters. Police also quickly discovered, apparSee OC Page 68
No big double hit for July 4 Midweek celebration doesn’t deliver two holiday weekends
By Brian Gilliland Associate Editor (July 13, 2018) Efforts to expand Ocean City’s working season beyond the boundaries of summer has worked better than its efforts to expand the July 4 holiday to a weeklong celebration, as business owners reported brisk but unremarkable activity during both weekends. Luckily, the owners in it for the long haul have some time to put a plan into motion, since the next time July 4 falls on a Wednesday is in 2029.
“‘Decent’ is the term I heard used around town,” Susan Jones, director of the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association said. “The weekends on either side of the holiday were about the same. A handful of people might stay longer, but it doesn’t feel crazy busy like it would over a four-day weekend.” There were plenty of people here on the holiday, as the Hugh T. Cropper inlet parking lot filled to capacity at 9:50 a.m. and remained there throughout the day, according to city Communications Manager Jessica Waters. “We did not do that $50 flat fee because the driving force of doing that was to ease the flow of traffic by
avoiding the ticket booth. Since the ticket booths are removed, we kept the regular pay-by-plate system in effect,” she said. For the past few years, the resort would offer an all day parking pass for $50 in advance of the holiday. Whether that system alleviated congestion hasn’t been quantified. “I believe that not having the toll booths at the exit of the inlet lot definitely eases the flow of traffic when leaving. Having said that, the Fourth of July is perhaps the busiest day of the year, so getting people in and out of the inlet lot, and the downtown area as a whole on that speSee MIDWEEK Page 70
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Ocean City Today
JULY 13, 2018
By Greg Ellison Staff Writer (July 13, 2018) Responding to concerns from area fishermen about impacts on marine habitats from Ocean City beach replenishment dredging projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting at the White Marlin Club in West Ocean City Tuesday evening. Chris Spaur, Army Corps engineer, told the assembled anglers their feedback was needed about potential shoaling from future dredging operations impacting fishing local spots. “Ocean City is an engineered See FISHERMEN Page 4
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Fishermen air concerns over dredging in marine habitats Continued from Page 3 beach and needs sand to be maintained,” he said. “The amount of sand needed to keep Ocean City going is pretty big.” Spaur said since 1990 more than 12 million cubic yards of sand have been dredged from ocean shoals, with the next round of large scale beach replenishment scheduled for 2022. “We need to get sand and still maintain seafloor habitats,” he said. The Army Corps works with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on the coastal storm damage reduction projects, which add about 900,000 cubic yards of sand every four years. “Since 1990, we’ve been taking sand from shoals in state waters within three miles from shore,” he said. “Those sands, at least from a supply perspective, are basically exhausted.” Since identifying previous sand sources as insufficient last year, Spaur said the Army Corps is now proposing tapping offshore shoals in federal waters. “We need BOEM permission to take sands because they are stewards of the continental shelf,” he said. To begin the process, Spaur said an updated borrow plan and environmental impact statement, which were last completed in 2008, would both be required. “That  EIS supported dredging from federal waters but we have not actually dredged in federal waters since 10 years of that passage,” he said. The decade of inaction voids previous federal clearance, with compliance regulations being updated in the interim, Spaur said. “The rules have gotten thicker, heaver and more detailed,” he said. “There was maybe less concern [previously] about the impacts than there is now.” The Army Corps gave public notice in April about a draft environmental assessment, which is being written and should be published for public comment this winter before being finalized in January. First steps for the next project involve identifying and screening candidate shoals. “We’ve identified eight offshore shoals between 3-11 miles,” he said. “The amounts of sand out there is mind boggling.” The target areas hold more than 750 million cubic yards of sand, with roughly 413 million deemed beach
quality. Starting with the next dredge, which is authorized to start as late as 2024, Spaur said about 5.2 million cubic yards of sand would be required by 2044, which averages to about 870,000 cubic yards every four years. “Severe storms could push that number to 12.3 million,” he said. The candidate list has been narrowed to a pair of shoals, Weaver and Isle of Wight, which should provide adequate sand, Spaur said. “Isle of Wight and Weaver’s advantage is proximity to the project,” “We will try to keep total moved from any shoal to less than 5 percent.” Fisherman Colin Campbell asked if the impact of dredging within a radius of a few miles would be examined. “Is there any dead zone area we can expect to see [or] muddying up the water?” he said. Army Corps project manager Justin Callahan, while noting federal waters tend to be less muddy, said ocean shoals are dynamic and move through natural processes over time. “It’s hard to tell where we actually dredge,” he said. “There were impacts but the shoals maintained.” Estimating the inlet traps about 190,000 cubic yards of sand annually, Callahan said after a quarter century of involvement with Ocean City and Assateague beach replenishment projects, the core question remains unanswered. “I’ve been pushing hard for years to do a comprehensive study,” he said. “We’ve got the magnitude of the problem down, but I can’t tell exactly where the sand’s going.” Shifting focus to recurring shoaling problems at the Ocean City Inlet, Army Corps program Manager Tony Clark said a long-term management solution is being developed in conjunction with the state Department of Natural Resources. “We’re never going to stop the problem, but we think we can manage the shoaling from impacting every 2-3 months,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get some type of natural structure or elements to extend that dredging cycle to years,” he added. The new study to improve navigation is in the formation stages and still requires approval, Clark said. “We’re trying to set this up to look at everything, not just the bad spots,” he said. Email questions to Spaur at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ocean City Today
JULY 13, 2018
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Transit Manager Mark Rickards reported tram ridership has been strong this summer during the Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Bus ridership peaking while trams approach busier time By Greg Ellison Staff Writer (July 13, 2018) Despite the popularity of the Transloc Rider app, customer use of the program has leveled off somewhat with more frequent bus deployments during summer months. City Transit Manager Mark Rickards told the Transportation Committee on Tuesday that minimal headway times, averaging around seven minutes, have been maintained for bus arrivals this summer. “If we didn’t have the frequency we’d probably have more hits on Transloc,” he said. “You just don’t need to track where it is when you can see it coming.” Since going live on New Year’s Day, Rickards said the phone app has been well received by customers and staff. “We passed the 100,000 mark in hits about a week ago … just before the Fourth of July,” he said. “We’re getting about 900 hits a day [and] it’s
close to 5,000 different users.” While the relatively high number of users and hits are impressive, Rickards said statistics indicate warmer weather has not ramped up usage. “Percentage wise in the winter, we still get as many hits, but we don’t have as many buses out,” he said. Bus ridership dropped slightly for the first week of this month Rickards said, reaching approximately 153,000 through July 8, compared to more than 164,000 during the same period in 2017. In total, Ocean City had more than 559,000 bus riders last July. Councilman Lloyd Martin said bouts of subpar weather could be one reason for the reduced ridership numbers, with rain causing visitors to use their own vehicle. “That’s part of your problem … we’ve had seven weekends in a row with rain,” he said. Despite the dip, Rickards said operations are fundamentally sound, See TRAM Page 6
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Ocean City Today
JULY 13, 2018
Inlet lot pay system well received
JOSH DAVIS/OCEAN CITY TODAY
New pay-by-plate parking systems at the inlet parking lot have garnered few complaints.
By Greg Ellison Staff Writer (July 13, 2018) While some visitors have voiced displeasure, Ocean City has seen the public largely embrace its new pay-by-plate system in the inlet parking lot. Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the Transportation Committee on Tuesday the city has received few emails of complaint about the new pay-by-plate system and related Park Mobile smartphone app. “On average, we’ve received one complaint a day about the inlet parking lot,” he said. “Factor in, percentage-wise, that lot holds 1,267 parking places and that’s lots of opportunities for complaints.” In December, the City Council agreed to spend more than $736,000 with Parkeon, who, a month earlier, presented a proposal to the Transportation
Committee to replace pay and display parking kiosks on streets and municipal parking lots. Maintenance Manager Tom Dy said although inlet parking lot revenues were down slightly this spring compared to the year prior, things have improved dramatically in the interim. “By June we’re almost where we need to be,” he said. On the Fourth of July, Dy said all 17 inlet lot parking machines and three staff ambassadors were fully engaged by the onslaught of tourists. “We used staff as well as J-1 students who are bilingual,” he said. “We basically were full by 10:20 a.m.” Use of the Park Mobile phone app has grown to about 10 percent of transactions, Dy said, with about 90 percent using credit cards over cash or coins. With just over 300,000 transactions
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so far this summer, Dy said customer issues have been relatively light. “If you look at the number of emails we are receiving, I don’t think that can compare [to the volume],” he said. “We’re very fast replying to folks that may not be familiar with the changes if they’re still looking for the booth.” Dy also noted the city website includes a short instructional video about the new parking system. Mayor Rick Meehan asked if long lines at the pay stations have been an issue. “During weekdays, there is more usage on the north side and on weekends those numbers are more evened out,” Dy said. “When you see the lines, there may be one user, but there’s a family … that all congregate to the side so it looks like a massive line.” While acknowledging the learning curve associated with change will always engender complaints, Meehan said the new system has generated less correspondence than past problems at the inlet lot. “I think my number of emails are down as opposed to when I got complaints previously about people being backed-up in the parking lot at night,” he said.
Tram service kept on track with new Jeeps for engines Continued from Page 5 with clean buses, helpful drivers and timely arrivals. “Those are the type of problems other systems have when ridership goes down,” he said. Shifting to Boardwalk trams, Rickards said there has been a small uptick of users. “We’re up one percent for the year on tram ridership,” he said. “Anytime we’re over 5,000 riders [per day] on the tram, that’s really good and we hit that mark on July 4-5.” Through the first week of July, approximately 153,000 people have hopped the trams, compared to more than 151,000 at the same point last year. The introduction of specially modified Jeeps to compensate for older tram engines has also been instrumental in maintaining a smooth flow of services, Rickards said. “Whenever we have an old tram that goes down, we’re pulling in the new Jeeps so we’re not missing deployments,” he said. “Unlike buses, with trams, July and August are our biggest months.” Mayor Rick Meehan said it appears the trams are already at peak levels. “I was on the Boardwalk last night [and] I don’t know how the engines could pull those cars because there were so many people on them,” he said.
Ocean City Today
JULY 13, 2018
Campsite relocation comment period open As sea level rises, National Seashore planning to move most vulnerable sites inland
By Brian Gilliland Associate Editor (July 13, 2018) One only has to look out over the Ocean City Inlet toward Assateague Island to see how the two pieces of what was once the same barrier island have evolved differently since the 1933 storm that
separated them. Ocean City’s sea wall and beach replenishment projects have kept this part of the island relatively stable, while a different toll has been taken on the northernmost stretch of Assateague. And while Ocean City’s development stays more or less where it’s been put, Assateague Island neither has nor wants that sort of development. But the landscape is changing:
PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
The National Park Service is proposing the move of campsites from more flood prone areas to higher ground as sea level rise begins to claim more of the Assateague Island shoreline.
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storms, measured cumulative pollution effects and sea level rise are just some of the concerns surrounding the ongoing efficacy of both bayside and oceanfront campsites at the Assateague Island National Seashore. For the past couple of years, the National Park Service has been developing plans with that situation in mind, and now has settled on a suggestion: move its campsites to different, more stable areas as the existing sites become unusable or dangerous. The National Park Service has made a new document available based on comments from the public and other agencies when the initial comment period began last year, and has opened that document for comments to see how close the plan came to what was envisioned. The commenting period is open until Aug. 6. The park service has sketched out an area just west of where the current campgrounds are located, and is developing ideas of where to place the sites within that area. Currently, the oceanside campgrounds are located just in front of or behind the dune line on the island, and are bordered on the westerly side by Ocean Campground Lane.
The proposal by the park service is to make Ocean Campground Lane the eastern border of the campsites, which would be bordered on the west, for the most part, by Bayberry Drive. Bayberry Drive is the road all visitors to the national seashore use to enter and exit the park. The large wooded area to the west of the North Ocean Beach, or the first parking lots seen upon entering the national seashore, has also been identified as a place for the campgrounds to go. The existing bayside campsites are planned to move eastward about one-third of the distance from the bay to Bayberry Drive. There are two opportunities to comment on the project. Written suggestions and comments can be submitted online to the park services’ Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website until Aug. 6 at www. parkplanning.nps.gov/oceansidecamping. Or, attend the public open house scheduled for Monday, July 23 between 4-7 p.m. at the National Seashore’s Environmental Education Center at 7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin, Maryland 21811.
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