Maintenance dredging of the upper reaches was completed in February 2020. The lower reaches of the Wicomico River were last dredged in 2017 and currently have a controlling depth of 11 feet. Dredging is scheduled to be completed in early 2022, and vegetation planting on the Deal Island WMA is scheduled to be completed in summer 2023.
The notification and review procedures for dredging in Federal navigation channels is found under Section 313 and 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977 (33USC 1323 and 1344).

Wicomico River Project Public Meeting 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, in coordination with various local, state and federal agencies, hosted a virtual public meeting April 14 from 6 – 8 p.m. to provide information and solicit input on the upcoming Wicomico River maintenance dredging and placement site location at the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This meeting provided stakeholders and the public the opportunity to learn more about the placement site history, efforts to identify suitable new placement sites, and factors that led to the selection of the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area for this cycle.

Wicomico River project public meeting presentation slides  (click)

Wicomico River Maintenance Dredging Background

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, provides maintenance dredging for the Federal navigation channel on the Wicomico River in Wicomico County, Maryland. The Wicomico River project was authorized by the River and Harbor Act of September 19, 1890, and modified in 1910, 1919, 1930,1937 and 1954.

This project contributes to protecting environmental habitat, improving water quality and expanding public access within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The operations and maintenance project provides for a channel of 14 feet deep and 150 feet wide from the Chesapeake Bay to Salisbury, including 100-foot-wide channels with turning basins that are all 14 feet deep in the north and south prongs, and a 60-foot-wide channel 6 feet deep from deep water in the river to Webster Cove; a T-shaped basin in a cove that is 100 feet wide and 400 feet long, and an extension of a basin that is 200 feet long and 100 feet wide on each side. 

The total project length is 37 miles. The port of Salisbury has the second highest commercial port in Maryland, consisting primarily of petroleum products and grain. Safe barge passage is crucial to maintaining adequate fuel supplies for the Delmarva Peninsula.


Questions & Answers

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The material will be dredged via a cutter suction dredge and hydraulically pumped through a pipeline from the dredge to the placement site. There will be no staging location or barges to move the material. The discharge end of the pipeline may be moved within the placement site to spread the dredged material.

USACE pumped the last dredging material to Clara Road in 2013. That site is now closed. A new suitable placement site for the dredged material from the Wicomico River needed to be found to ensure continued dredging and safe vessel passage.

Since 2008, USACE and its partners have been looking for new placement sites. Other considered placement sites had wetland mitigation issues, owners who did not want to sell their property, or land that would not have the space available for the appropriate dredged material. After long research and testing, USACE and its partners picked Deal Island WMA. This placement site can take sediment from the Wicomico River, while also rebuilding degraded tidal marshes that provide habitat for local species, including two threatened bird species, and filter sediment.

There are significant differences between the characteristics of the Deal Island WMA and Ellis Bay placement sites. Ellis Bay was a shoreline restoration project, in which material was placed adjacent to the shoreline in open water. Whereas, placement at Deal Island will aim to restore eroding wetlands to provide habitat and improve resiliency. The multi-agency project team incorporated different design parameters and contributed to the overall site design, to include target elevation and containment features. A USACE representative will monitor the dredged material inflow and work closely with the contractor to ensure the target elevation of 1.5 feet above the existing grade is met. The placement site area is sufficient for the estimated amount of material to be placed, but operations will be shut down if any containment failures are identified.


The sediment was sampled and tested in 2010 and fell within acceptable ranges. Necessary water quality certifications were issued for the Wicomico River project from the Maryland Department of the Environment on previous maintenance dredging cycles. In February 2021, sediment samples were collected at the previously used upland placement site for the lower portion of the Wicomico River. These sediment samples also showed contamination levels within acceptable ranges and suitable to plant and grow similar species of vegetation to be planted at the Deal Island WMA.

The diameter of the pipeline will depend on the winning contractor and the dredge and equipment they decide to use to meet the requirements of this work. Historically, this project has been dredged with equipment having a diameter between 16 - 24 inches. In coordination with our partner agencies, several environmental windows and time-of-year restrictions are set to avoid as much impact as possible to fish, other species and aquatic vegetation during both dredging and material placement. From February to June, we have listed the anadromous fish window. We will also avoid dredging during fish spawning timeframes in the Wicomico River.

The contract is anticipated to be awarded by the end of September 2021. With the environmental window, dredging should occur from October 2021 to February 2022. 

  • The first round of planting and seeding would occur in late spring or early summer 2022.
  •  The remaining hand planting would occur in 2023.

The estimated cost is under $10 million, which includes construction of the containment features, dredging, placement and vegetation planting.

The work is forecast to commence in fall 2021 with the construction of containment features. Dredging and placement will occur after the containment features have been installed and within the time of year allowed by coordinating agencies. Following placement, vegetation will be planted over two growing seasons and monitoring will occur for up to five years.

The work is planned to commence at the southern end of the Wicomico River. Three main sections will have visible buoys for the dredging location in the Wicomico River. Please see the below buoy locations for the general areas of dredging:

Dredging Section 1

  • Start dredging after Green 9
  • End dredging at Green 15

Dredging Section 2

  • Start dredging before Green 17
  • End dredging at Green 19

Dredging Section 3

  • Start dredging before Green 23
  • End dredging before Red 22



Under normal wave conditions and habitat conditions, there should be no direct wave contact.

For the portion of work occurring on the river, the pipeline may be either submerged or floating but will be properly marked by the contractor in accordance with USACE and USCG regulations. A natural oyster bar is located near the southern end of the channel. Dredging for this section of the channel will be accomplished within the timeframe recommend by Maryland Department of Natural Resources in order to minimize potential impacts to the natural oyster bar. Additionally, USACE and its contractor will work with aquaculture leaseholders regarding the pipeline route to minimize impacts to leases near the federal channel to the maximum extent practicable.

FY 2021 Scheduled Work

USACE plans to award two contracts in fiscal 2021.

  1. The first contract is for construction of the features to prepare the Deal Island WMA placement site to receive dredged material inflow. This contract will also include vegetation planting.
  2. The second contract will be for maintenance dredging of approximately 130,000 cubic yards (cy) of material from the Wicomico River's lower reaches to ensure continued safe navigation along the federal channel.

The material, comprising of mostly silt and sand, will be beneficially placed at the Deal Island WMA, owned by Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to restore approximately 75 acres of wetlands showing heavy signs of degradation and fragmentation

View the Site Map (click)

Contact us!

Corporate Communication Office number: 410-962-6809

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please e-mail for further information.