The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has completed an emergency dredging project at the mouth of the Murderkill River. The goal of the project was to restore navigability and increase boating safety while strengthening shoreline resiliency.
Shoreline and Waterway Management
The $2.3 million project dredged more than 52,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river’s navigation channel. DNREC made beneficial reuse of the dredged material to nourish close to a quarter-mile of eroding shoreline at South Bowers Beach.
Dredging began on Aug. 2, 2022 and lasted about two weeks. The river channel was cleared by mid-August.
During the project, the contractor found an added 200 feet of sandy material in the channel. It was pumped ashore to South Bowers, further enhancing the town’s resiliency to coastal storms.
The Murderkill River flows from just west of Felton, northeast through Kent County to its inlet to the Delaware Bay just south of Bowers Beach. The river is a navigational channel that serves numerous boat ramps and provides essential access for commercial and emergency vessels.
The Murderkill River Inlet has become increasingly more difficult to navigate due to shoaling. A shoal is a submerged accumulation of sediment that is built by wave and current action. Dredging projects are often used to remove this sediment and restore the use of channels experiencing shoaling.
The Murderkill River is a federally-authorized navigation project channel which relies on periodic maintenance, including dredging. As the Murderkill River Inlet serves as an access point for commercial and emergency vessels in addition to recreational boating, DNREC gave this project emergency status and prioritized it for completion.
In the spring of 2022, DNREC completed a small-scale dredging project on the waterway. Due to equipment limitations, DNREC was unable to remove enough sediment to completely restore the navigational channel. Navigation continued to be a challenge during low tides, so it was decided that hydraulic dredging equipment was necessary to further deepen the channel.
Because DNREC does not have the equipment or capacity for this type of larger-scale project, it was completed by the Cottrell Contracting Corporation of Chesapeake, VA.
Funds for the $2.3 million project come from the Bond Bills for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
DNREC used beach-quality sand dredged from the Murderkill Inlet to nourish the eroding shoreline and dunes of South Bowers Beach. The sand dunes at South Bowers Beach provide multiple ecosystem services including flooding protection, extreme weather protection, coastal species habitat, and aesthetic value. To maintain these protective dunes, beach nourishment is occasionally required.