At long last, the Knapps Narrows channel is being dredged, and it’s welcome news for watermen, pleasure boaters, and Eastern shore tourism efforts.
For more than a decade, sailboaters with deep drafts have had to avoid the Narrows because of silting and a shifting channel. The problem has gradually gotten worse, and in recent years, smaller sailboats and some powerboats have also begun to stay away. Not only is it inconvenient for commercial and recreational boaters, but the restaurants and marinas of Tilghman Island have lost out on transient boat traffic.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began $1.4 million in maintenance dredging of the Knapps Narrows Federal Navigation Channel. The dredging will restore the channel to its authorized depth of nine feet, plus two feet of allowable overdepth. Recent silting has left its depth as shallow as 1.5 feet in parts.
Work has begun on the east side of the drawbridge first, then will proceed to the west side, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. About 100,000 cubic yards of material will have to be removed.
The contract for the work was awarded to Southwind Construction of Evansville, Ind., and the dredging is being coordinated with the Maryland Department of Environment and Talbot County.
County leaders give a lot of the credit for the federal funding to Congressman Andy Harris, who spent years pushing for the dredging. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen also pushed for federal support.
“In addition to ensuring safe passage for vessels, investments in the Channel help ensure that local economies flourish and Chesapeake Bay-dependent lifestyles persist,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.
The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to have the project completed by Memorial Day and the official kickoff to summer boating season. That’s music to the ears of business owners along the Narrows, as well as Tilghman Island’s waterfront attractions.
“Knapps Narrows will be open for business!” says Talbot County Council President Jennifer Williams. “Restaurants and businesses are eagerly waiting for the boaters to return to the hospitality that Tilghman Island has been famous for for a century.”
Williams points out that there are two great places to visit within walking distance of Knapps Narrows: the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, an education center with rich Bay programs, and the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum, which celebrates the history of the working waterfront.