Massey’s Ditch dredging begins

Massey’s Ditch in Long Neck, a navigation channel in the Inland Bays, will be dredged during a $3.6 million project starting this month.

Dredging was scheduled to begin the week of Monday, Jan. 6, and take 31 days.

The channel runs between the Rehoboth and Indian River bays. Dredging is intended to improve navigation for commercial and recreational boaters who use the channel and to provide material to help renourish the eroding ocean shoreline on the north side of Indian River Inlet, according to information on the state’s Division of Watershed Stewardship Website, at www.dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/watershed-stewardship/waterways/masseys-dit....

The project will be paid for by the state’s Waterway Management Fund and annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly.

Workers began moving pipeline and other equipment to the site in early November in preparation for the northern part of the waterway (locally called Baker’s Channel) to be dredged. The channel is the alternate route for boaters to take to get from Rehoboth Bay to Indian River Bay when Massey’s Ditch becomes impassible due to shoaling.

A channel-marking crew has been removing buoys from Baker’s Channel, to avoid having to later replace them. In past years, many buoys have been lost due to icing and other winter weather conditions. They will be replaced in the spring, before the boating season.

Dredging, expected to be completed by the end of February, will result in Massey’s Ditch being 100 feet wide and 7.5 feet deep. About 100,000 cubic yards of dredged material, mostly sand, will be pumped to the north side of Indian River Inlet after it’s dredged and used to replenish the beach at Delaware Seashore State Park.

J.F. Brennan Company of La Crosse, Wisc., is the contractor.

The Massey’s Landing channel is one of about a dozen federally authorized channels in Delaware. It is the responsibility of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate and maintain navigability, including maintenance dredging and channel condition surveys.

However, the website states, federal funding has not kept pace with dredging and infrastructure repair costs for these channels. Limited federal resources are focused on the highest-performing projects. The Massey’s Ditch project does not compete well in the Corps’ process for determining dredging needs, so has not received federal funding since the 1970s.

In the absence of federal funding, the State has paid for the dredging of Massey’s Ditch four times since the 1980s.