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In 2005 the Delmarva Water Transport Committee (DWTC) contracted with Dr. Memo Diriker at Salisbury University and his Beacon Institute to do a Study of the Economic Impact of Waterborne Commerce on the 6 rivers of the Delmarva Peninsula. The rivers included in the study were: Nanticoke River in both Maryland and Delaware. Onancock Creek in Virginia. The Chester River, Pocomoke River, Tred Avon River, and the Wicomico River in Maryland.


Each year DWTC does a independent survey of area businesses to evaluate the economic impact on the Peninsula. Little less than 1,000 barges travel the waterways of Delmarva annually, with over 3-4 Billion Tons of Petroleum, Grain, and Aggregates delivered yearly. The total effect on the economy is determined by examining the combined impacts on all of the industries present in the area. 

Two factors combine to make waterborne commerce so critical to the region:

  1. Due to geographic and economic reasons, the bulk of the region’s petroleum products can only be brought in by water.
  2. Tourism is the second largest industry on the peninsula, with more than half of leisure activities involving local ports or marinas, either for play or for seafood products.

Waterborne commerce on the Delmarva Peninsula accounts for over 9,000 jobs throughout the region, from individuals working the barges to those working at the docks and trucks. When the impact of the industry is extended to purchases made by the firms directly involved in waterborne commerce, and the economic activity created by the expenditures of the 9,000 employees, the extended activity directly or indirectly impacts over 45,000 people in the region. As for the monetary value of the industry, the direct impact is estimated at over $4 billion dollars. When all the industry output effects are considered, the total approaches $7 Billion dollars.

Taking into account the critical nature of the products it carries (petroleum products, grain, and aggregates for construction) leads us to conclude that a little over (ONE IN EVERY 20 RESIDENTS) of this region is affected by Waterborne Commerce.

What If?

Waterborne Commerce Activities stopped?

Approximately 150 tractor trailer trucks are needed to replace 1 barge. Over 2 thousand tractor trailer trucks would be needed per day or over 1 hundred thousand annually to transport the same product. Think of the Environmental impact, the Safety aspect of all those trucks on the road.

Federal funding for authorized maintenance projects has been drastically reduced over the past few years resulting in a backlog of projects. The Nanticoke River, which has shoaled to a depth of eight feet in some spots is in desperate need of both funding and a dredge material site. The Eastern Shore of Virginia, which also relies on the federal government to maintain their small harbors and waterways on Coastal Virginia, has received no funding in the proposed budget. Each year the Federal Government is limiting the amount of money allocated to the US Army Corp of Engineers for maintenance dredging of the rivers and other waterways on Delmarva. Through the continued support of Local, State & Federal Legislators we will continue to maintain the economic structure of Delmarva Waterborne commerce.

Support needed from Local Property Owners for Dredge material Placement Sites

DWTC helps to seek funding for dredging along with locating dredge material placement sites. DWTC works with the counties in locating sites for the dredged materials. As waterfront property becomes scarce and expensive in developing counties through-out the Peninsula it is increasingly difficult to locate potential dredge placement sites that will meet local, state and federal regulations. We need the continued support of local property owners to provide dredge material placement sites.

In many cases on the Delmarva peninsula over the past 100 years, dredged materials has been used as a landfill and many of the locally owned properties are built on that land. But, many people have become fearful of dredging over the years. With misunderstood myths of dredging, (“dredging endangers the habitat, dredging brings up contaminated material from the water bottom, dredged material has an odor”, etc.)

Do you know Dredging can benefit the environment?

The Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency use scientific procedures for identifying and assessing contaminated sediments at dredging projects. When contaminated sediments are identified in material that must be dredged for navigation, proper safeguards are undertaken to isolate the contaminants from the environment. Placing dredged material in areas that benefit the environment is referred to as “beneficial uses.” This method offers perhaps the greatest number of possibilities for placement. Suitable dredge material is placed as landfill cover, construction aggregate, beach nourishment, wetlands construction, to create recreational areas, airports, or other projects. Constructing wetlands is a beneficial use that has evolved into a scientific process where habitat can be designed for specific plants and animals, including critical habitat for endangered species. Where clean sand cannot be economically transported to renourish beaches, underwater berms can be constructed just offshore from the beach zone and the sands may be transported by natural forces to the beach. Agriculture and industry have also welcomed the beneficial use of dredged material. 

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