by Megan Schiffres
HEATHSVILLE—The Northumberland planning commission on September 19 discussed the increasing need to dredge multiple waterways, but made no move to address the problem, citing budget constraints.
According to a 2010 report by the Northern Neck Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers, federal funding was historically provided in the Army Corps of Engineer’s budget for dredging projects, but the Corps’ budget no longer has sufficient funding to sustain the maintenance dredging of the 13 federal navigation channels in the Northern Neck, including four in Northumberland County.
Funding for dredging projects used to be earmarked, or added onto an unrelated Congressional bill, by members of Congress, said county planner Stuart McKenzie. However, a ban on earmarks was instituted by Congress in 2011, so the only way for dredging projects to be funded is by advocating for increased funding for the Army Corps of Engineers overall.
In Northumberland, the Coan River, Little Wicomico River, Cranes Creek and Jarvis Creek are all overdue for dredging, according to the report.
The Coan, scheduled to be dredged every 15 years beginning in 2020, would cost the county an estimated $600,000 every time it is maintained.
The Little Wicomico, scheduled to be dredged in 2015, is projected to cost the county $550,000 every six years.
Cranes Creek, scheduled to be dredged in 2011, would cost the county $550,000 every five years, according to the report.
An estimate for the projected cost of dredging Jarvis Creek, which was previously commercially maintained, was not included in the report.
McKenzie indicated local funding for these dredging projects is simply not possible due to the size of the county’s budget.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see when we can’t get in and out of Little Wicomico,” McKenzie said. “One big storm and we’re going to have problems.”
The commission also continued its discussion on how to provide underserved areas of the county with broadband connectivity.
Commission member Patrick O’Brien proposed the county partner with a third-party fixed wireless broadband provider, which would transmit internet services from broadband providers via radio signals and not through cables or satellites, to connect people who live outside existing broadband networks.
“The ideal outcome for this county would be some third party providing wireless connection for the last mile,” O’Brien said.