In May 2018, the Virginia General Assembly established the Virginia Waterway Maintenance
Fund for the purpose of supporting shallow-draft dredging projects throughout the Commonwealth.
The source of the grant funds shall be the Virginia Waterway Maintenance Grant Fund. The Virginia Port Authority finds it necessary and in the public’s interest, and pursuant to its statutory responsibility, to establish the Virginia Waterway Maintenance Grant Program Guidelines.
The Kings Creek dredging project is one of the beneficiaries of this grant.
The Mirror contacted John Joeckel about the project. Mr. Joeckel is Chairman of the Eastern Shore Regional Navigable Waterways Committee and is leading the Kings Creek effort. He was able to provide much-needed background and details about the project.
From Mr. Joeckle:
Kings Creek is a state waterway/non-federal so the Army Corps of Engineers and federal funding is not applicable. This project is funded by the Waterway Maintenance Fund (WMF) administered by the Virginia Port Authority. We will be overseeing the project, not the Corps.
I wrote the WMF legislation in 2017 and Bloxom & Lewis pushed it thru the General Assembly in 2018. The fund initially was funded with $1.34 million, for the entire Commonwealth, so when you figure dredging projects today, few cost less than $2 million, so we couldn’t do much with that initial amount. But we did spend it on pre-dredging issues, e.g., hydraulic surveys, engineering drawings, disposal plans, permitting, etc., etc.
Since 2018 we have increased this fund to the current $4 million, again for the entire Commonwealth. The current budget negotiations in Richmond have this fund up to $7 million, but that may change during the budget conference negotiations.
We wanted to get this project done last year commencing right after Labor Day to avoid disruption of the beach season. Still, our contractors came back with bids far exceeding our grant award, so we had to defer commencement until this year, but that hinges on us getting another grant award to cover the anticipated increased cost.
So our intention, if we get the additional grant, is to commence right after Labor Day and finish no later than December 31st since between January and July we cannot dredge due to the aquaculture hatchery in Kings Creek, so we only have a window between the beach season and the aquaculture restriction, plus, the Kings Creek channel at its mouth is narrow and there will be some challenges between the dredge and the boat traffic.
The sediment has been sampled and tested and is beach quality. The sediment will be transported by pipeline from the dredge to the northern part of the public beach, there at the discharge outfall, the town will have their heavy equipment to spread the sediment around on the beach periodically. All this was agreed to last year with the town administration.