After 25 years, canal dredging set for completion

DNREC officials said this week that the Assawoman Canal dredging project is “closing in on completion.” An extension has been granted for work to continue through May 28, and if dredging is not complete by that date, DNREC has requested additional time to get the project finished this season, said Ariane Nichols of DNREC’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

“We applied for a further extension for the end of July and are waiting on a response from the Army Corps of Engineers,” explained Nichols. She said they have a little less than a mile left to complete and are headed north to finish at the Route 26 bridge.

She noted that that the May 28 completion date was not likely to pan out but said they believe it will be done “well before” the July completion target date.

In January, DNREC received an extension from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Delaware to dredge until April 15, in an effort to complete the project before the upcoming boating season.

Dredging started in October of 2006, and Nichols explained that, because of the narrowness of the Assawoman Canal, it posed unique challenges when compared to other dredging projects. They were also working within time constraints of working only from September through December, under state and Corps regulations regarding dredging in the inland bays, due to environmental impacts.

The first public meeting to determine interest in a dredging project was held more than 25 years ago, in September of 1984. The permitting process involved several requested hearings by the Environmental Appeals Board, as the Sierra Club attempted to prevent the project from beginning. Finally, language in the state’s 2006 Bond Bill ordered DNREC to move forward with project, without a cost-benefit analysis that had been planned. The dredging began in October of 2006.

“We are looking forward to having it done this summer,” concluded Nichols.

For a detailed history of the project, visit