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West Ocean City Harbor economic impact study in development since late summer

Shallower navigation channels in the Ocean City inlet area are threatening the future viability of Worcester County’s commercial fishing industry. For this reason, in early September 2017, following a meeting with local, state, and federal partners in August, the County Commissioners directed County staff to develop a request for proposals (RFP) to identify the inlet’s economic impact on this area. 

The RFP, currently in the final stages of development, is a first step toward developing a long-term solution and needed federal funding to maintain safe, navigable travel through the inlet. The RFP will be designed to identify economic data that confirms the viability of the commercial fishing industry and the need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to increase the depth of the inlet channel to accommodate larger vessels and to secure continued federal funding to maintain channel depths. 

“Securing federal funding, which is now awarded on a tier basis, is paramount to the success of our efforts to assure that commercial fishing vessels can safely navigate the channel to bring their catches to market,” Commission President Jim Bunting said. “Our commercial fishing fleets are an integral part of our heritage and our economy, and we want them to continue to call Worcester County home for generations to come. The County’s tier ranking may be improved if our study can identify the dollar value of the commercial fishing industry. So we plan to have USACE staff review the RFP before we release it to bid to ensure that the successful bidder will provide the information needed to improve the ranking of the Ocean City inlet to keep it at the forefront of federal dredging projects.”

The County Commissioners’ directive, specifically, tasks Worcester County Economic Development (WCED) with developing an RFP to capture and develop data to make the economic case for increasing the depth of the inlet. This will include an economic analysis of the past, present and projected economic impact of the commercial fishing vessels at the West Ocean City Harbor to confirm the viability of the commercial fishing industry and the need for increased channel depth to accommodate the current fleet and to attract more and larger vessels in the future. 

The need for an RFP was identified thanks to an ongoing partnership between the County, Ocean City, field experts from the USACE and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as our local State and federal delegation in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. The RFP is on track to be released in fall 2017.