Emergency Dredging Planned for the Murderkill River
An emergency dredging project is set to begin and be completed by the end of August to restore navigability in the Murderkill River, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced on Tuesday. Permitted by and with modification approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNREC regulators, the project calls for removing approximately 52,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river’s navigation channel. DNREC will then make beneficial reuse of the dredged sand to nourish up to 1,000 feet of eroding shoreline at South Bowers Beach.
Funding for the $2.3 million project comes from appropriations to DNREC made under fiscal year 2022 and 2023 Bond Bills, both of which named the Murderkill River as a dredging priority.
“This important state-funded dredging project in the Murderkill River will restore navigability of the channel while bolstering shoreline resiliency in South Bowers,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “It’s a win-win in two critical DNREC areas of responsibility: navigable waterways and infrastructure support. Thanks to our partners – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the town of Bowers and the South Bowers Volunteer Fire Company – for working with us to bring a much-needed dredging project to fruition.”
U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure this project could begin.
“After working to secure the necessary federal permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, I’m so glad that this project will now be able to begin and restore the Murderkill River to its full potential,” said Senator Carper. “In the Senate, I’m leading the effort to pass bipartisan legislation that would support navigability in our waters for years to come. Enacting this legislation will ensure towns across our state can better access the help they need to maintain their infrastructure.”
The Murderkill River is a federally-authorized navigation project that requires periodic dredging to maintain the safety and navigable access to the river, critically important to commercial and emergency vessels as well as recreational boating. The river forms the southern boundary of the Town of Bowers – a popular boating area with its docks, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife-owned boat launch and large parking area – before flowing into the Delaware Bay.
In early 2022, DNREC removed sand from the Murderkill Inlet’s navigation channel but was limited by having to use a land-based excavator, and navigation continued to be challenge at low tide, especially in the mile-long approach channel to the Inlet. Nautical dredging equipment to be deployed next month will deepen the channel. An onshore staging area, made possible through a temporary construction easement agreement between DNREC and the South Bowers Volunteer Fire Company, will help facilitate the project. Dredging will be carried out by Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., with almost a century-long record of Eastern Seaboard infrastructure dredging.
“Nourishing the South Bowers shoreline is a vitally important defense of the coastal community against extreme weather, an impact of climate change,” said Jesse Hayden, DNREC Shoreline and Waterway Management Section administrator. “The beach-quality sand from this latest dredging project will be used to extend the area of an earlier beach replenishment project that also utilized dredged sand from the Murderkill’s navigation channel.”
With the project expected to start on or about August 1, the U.S. Coast Guard soon will give notice for mariners to exercise caution and maintain safe distance from the dredging activity – to include floating and submerged pipelines in the Murderkill, and the dredge and support vessels in the area. The USCG also advises that commercial fishing nets, crab pots and other structures removed from the dredging area before work begins.