Dredging project set for Bowers Beach

February 1, 2014

On Monday, I attended a press conference in Bowers Beach that marked the beginning of a dredging project to clear the channel leading into the Murderkill River. The last time dredging was done here was 2002, and the State of Delaware did the work. The Army Corps of Engineers has relinquished responsibility for dredging small areas that do not support a large commercial presence to the various states. Think the Delaware River versus the Murderkill River.

Since the states now have the responsibility for these smaller waterways, they also have the responsibility of funding the projects. In Delaware, the General Assembly must come up with the funds by including the money in the bond bill. There are many other projects that need funding from the same source, so competition is keen.

Capt. Dave Russell runs the head boat Miss Shyanne out of Bowers Beach, and he began a campaign to have this dredging project funded several years ago. First he tried our federal senators and representative, only to find out the federal government no longer dredged small projects.

Dave then began working with his state senator and representative as well as the mayor and town council of Bowers Beach. He and others worked tirelessly for several years to finally bring the project to this point.

One of the matters that delayed the project was the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s desire to combine the dredging work with a beach replenishment project for South Bowers Beach. This had never been done before, and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara admitted during his remarks that it took longer than expected. The good news is, since the pattern has been set, future projects of the same sort will have an easier time acquiring the necessary paperwork.

Any bureaucracy, be it government or private, tends to move in the same direction and will resist any force that wants to change that direction. In this case, the two bureaucracies, one that handled dredging and one that handled beach replenishment, were forced to act as one. Since they now have a system to do both at the same time, perhaps it won’t take as long as when they were handled separately.

The dredge will move 45,000 cubic yards of material from the inlet. Nearly three-fourths of the material is suitable for beach replenishment, while the remainder will be placed in an approved offshore site. This eliminates the always-pressing problem on any dredge project; where to put the spoils. In a similar project last year, the mud dredged from Pepper Creek was spread over an eroding marsh area.

The total cost of this work is $950,000. The dredge company is the same one that moved the sand from Indian River Inlet to the north-side beach, and since they were already in the area, the cost was kept down. The FY 2013 Bond Bill provided $627,000, with the remainder coming through DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Bond Bill. Since waterway dredging is a continuing problem, O’Mara would like to establish a permanent funding source so they don’t have to go to the Legislature for the money. What that source will be has yet to be decided.

The dredging and beach replenishment should be done by early in February with a new jetty on both sides of the inlet scheduled for completion this spring. The hope is the jetty will slow the movement of sand into the inlet and river. It will be built with rocks that will be placed in such a manner that sand cannot pass through.

I am aware that the entire project took several years and a lot of work by a lot of people to get this far. I also know how frustrating it can be to see things move so slowly while the problem only gets worse.

Capt. Dave Russell did a lot of cussing and swearing and begging and lobbying during this time. Even last June when he finally saw the money needed included in the bond bill only to be told the dredging could not begin until the winter while the sand kept polishing his props to a high luster, he never gave up.

He and the others succeeded by getting out and learning what must be done to have the government work for you. They did not sit on the dock or in some barroom complaining, but taking no action.

The excuse that government only listens to big corporations has been disproven by the actions of Captain Russell and his friends. They represented a small company in a small town, and with perseverance and hard work they succeeded.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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