Questions and Answers: White Creek Dredging

This page contains questions from the July 28 Public Information Session on the 2022 White Creek Dredging Project and answers to those questions from DNREC staff.

The July 28 meeting was the first of two planned public information sessions as DNREC works through the planning process for the dredging project.

White Creek Project Map

What can local communities or property owners do to get their access points along White Creek dredged at the same time as White Creek?

The DNREC project will dredge the main channel, East Prong, and West Prong of White Creek. Any proposed dredging outside of those dimensions should be pursued by the owners of the lagoons or canals.

The first step in a dredge project is to engage an engineering or environmental consultant who can assist with design and permitting. The permitting process for a dredge project is long and requires a lot of information about the quantity and quality of sediments that need to be removed, including potential contamination that would preclude it from being used beneficially like DNREC is doing with the sediments from White Creek.

Permits are required from the DNREC Division of Water and the US Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District in addition to a water quality certification and a federal consistency determination.

The private entity will need to secure a disposal solution for their dredged material and should not presume that the same sediment disposal opportunity that DNREC plans to use will be available for their project.

DNREC intends to complete the procurement process and award a contract for dredging White Creek in early 2022. All information related to that public procurement process will be available and the contractor selection and award information will be added to the project web page.

Private entities could choose to pursue an arrangement to execute their fully permitted and designed dredging directly with the same contractor that DNREC selects.

What is the purpose of adding sediment to a marsh?

Sediment can be added to a marsh to enhance its elevation and make it more resilient to changing water levels from sea level rise and storms.

The goal of the White Creek project will be to add a thin layer of sediment to the marsh area(s) so that it will remain as a healthy wetland now and into the future.

The thin layer technique will not add so much elevation that the marsh would no longer be classified as wetland.

Where will dredged sediment be placed/not placed?

The design will call for thin-layer placement on existing wetland platforms only, and measures will be taken to minimize runoff into existing channels within the marsh restoration area(s). Those channels are important to wildlife and many people who kayak and canoe, and their protection will be part of the project design.

Will the restored marsh retain the microtopography and pools that are valuable for their varied ecology?

The design concept includes placing material to achieve a narrow elevation enhancement across a wide area of wetland. The project team expects that the construction methods will result in small variations in elevation across the restoration area and settlement and re-vegetation over time will result in the same kind of microtopography that is comparable to the existing conditions.

Will dredging damage the existing fringing marshes within White Creek and the prongs?

No, the dredging will be confined to the navigable channel within White Creek and the East and West Prongs and will not damage the existing marshes adjacent to the channels.

Will dredging affect any structures along White Creek like docks, bulkheads, or houses?

Some property owners may experience temporary interruptions to dock access as the dredge passes by, or may be requested to temporarily remove floating docks. Other than that, the project will be designed to avoid permanent structures like bulkheads or pilings for docks.

Will the dredge project make flooding worse or affect water levels of White Creek?

No, the dredging is not expected to make flooding worse or change water levels. It will make the navigable water deeper by removing sediment from the channel bottom.

What are “Environmental Windows” and how do they affect dredging?

Environmental Windows are times of year when dredging is expected to have minimal adverse effects on the surrounding environment including fish and wildlife. You might also hear the terms “dredging season” or “time of year restrictions (TOYR)” to refer to the Environmental Window for dredging.

The typical Environmental Window for dredging in the Delaware Inland Bays is between October and March.

What can members of the public do to support the dredging project?

Check the project web page periodically and continue engaging with the project team by submitting questions and comments via the online form.

Share information about the project with your community and engage with the public comment periods during the project’s permit applications, which will be announced by the regulatory agencies.

What are some alternate Points of Contact for concerns in White Creek not specifically related to dredging?

DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife

Contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife for questions or concerns about fishing and crabbing, as well as boater safety.

US Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay

Contact the US Coast Guard for questions or concerns about channel marking and/or the “Danger Shoal” signs for which they are responsible.

Note that channel marking duties are shared between DNREC and US Coast Guard in White Creek, see the project map for more information.