More to say about Indian River Inlet bridge

August 16, 2013

The following does not direct in any part to any one group that may be responsible for the action and directions in this letter. I do not know the names nor do I have the phone numbers of any person or group of state employees who are responsible for actions described in this letter, which I consider irresponsible at the least.

In early April, reporter Ron MacArthur interviewed me concerning the problem with the ever-eroding sand at the north jetty wall at Indian River Inlet. If you read that article, you may think that I am hung up on the ongoing waste and cost of this problem. Well, I am, and have been for years, and now I have more to say that some may consider worthwhile.

First, why did there have to be a new, beautiful and very costly bridge built at this time? If you don't remember, it was because somebody did recognize that the northern support pier of the existing bridge was dangerously being eroded.

Divers reported the erosion to an approximate depth of 16 feet below water level. The fix at that time was to pump sand that collected in an eddy on the south side exit of the south jetty wall back to the north side of the north jetty wall.

I have been watching this sand-pumping project for years and to date have not seen any benefits to ease erosion. In fact, it may have allowed erosion to amplify. The benefits for the past 15 to 20 years has been to the suppliers of the sand-pumping equipment for warn-out sand pumps and pipe and crane repairs for a crane that sits in waiting at the ocean's edge.

Then there has to be a crane operator on standby when the director of the project decides to pump sand. Add in the mix, the money to support personnel and the director. This all has to add up to a very expensive, time-delaying project that has not recognized what really causes the erosion.

Am I, and Mr. Friend who was quoted in the article, the only two who see the erosion problem was caused by the broken down jetty wall? And, I will add that in no way will worn-out sand and even new sand pumped or dumped into the area north of that jetty rock pile stay there, even for a day.

At a luncheon several years ago, I accidentally was seated next to the engineer who was in charge of the sand-pumping operation. I tried to talk to him and tell him my ideas how to stop or slow the erosion of the sand on the north-side jetty rock pile, but since I was not an engineer he had no interest in even hearing my ideas.

That brings me to this: I need to clear up a couple things in the article that need a bit more defining. Mr. MacArthur, possibly misunderstanding me, wrote that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drilled hundreds of holes in the Ocean City, Md., north jetty and that they sealed the jetty by pouring cement into the holes. No, they used a tube inserted down into the bottom of the holes, and with compressed air injected a powdered cement mixture that solidified immediately to make the entire 450-foot jetty wall a solid one.

Hence, sand has continued to pile up and has grown to form a parking lot that held about 300 autos in the 1950s and today holds about 1,200 autos. The City of Ocean City can erect three circus tents plus other attractions and displays on the black-top space for city functions.

By the way, the sand piled on the black-topped parking lot by the storm Sandy was pushed back into the ocean. The build-up of the beach, which now extends approximately 1,035 feet north of the inlet jetty, is actually a protection to the southern end of Ocean City's boardwalk.

The idea of solidifying a stone jetty of this configuration was that of one Army Corps engineer back in 1946-47 and may not have been recorded or has not been done since, but it has proven to be a lasting fix.

Army Corps engineers should forget sand-pumping at the Indian River Inlet and rebuild the north jetty to its original length to match the south jetty, and of course, make it a solid jetty wall. The ocean's actions will fill the sand in behind it to give the needed protection.

An immediate move that would buy time would be to drive interlocking sheet piling in the line of the north jetty to the length of the south jetty, and again, the ocean will fill sand in on the north side.

And Mr. MacArthur, you did give away my age in the article. Some may question if I will ever see this monstrosity - very ugly thing as defined by Webster - fixed.

M.A. Keller

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