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Wittman seeks funds for Broad Creek

by Larry S. Chowning

First District Congressman Robert Wittman informed the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night that he hopes federal funds will soon be available to dredge the mouth of Broad Creek in Deltaville, but he is not overly optimistic.

Wittman explained the funding process to the board. The Army Corps of Engineers has funds in their budget for deep-water dredging projects, but “unfortunately” no funds are allotted for shallow-creek projects such as Broad Creek.

Consequently, members of Congress have to request funds for the shallow-creek projects. Last year there were several requests from the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula for federal shallow-creek dredging funds, said Wittman.

“We went ahead and put all of those budget requests in and . . . only one of those was totally funded,” said Wittman. “That was the Little Wicomico River in Northumberland County.”

He said a new request will be made, but in the meantime he is talking to the Corps about other ways money can be raised to fund the $1 million-plus Broad Creek project. 

He noted there are already enough federal funds to do the engineering and planning, but there is not enough money to do the actual dredging.  Wittman said there are funds available through the Virginia Port Authority and the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Fund for shallow creek dredging projects and he will work with county officials with the application processes.

“We are looking at those avenues, but we are continuing to seek federal dollars to fund the project,” said Wittman. “To be very blunt, there is a lot of competition for those federal dollars.”

He cautioned supervisors that the current Broad Creek funds now available for engineering and planning need to be used because, if they are not, the money “might be swept back” and used for a different project.  “I think we have a very limited window of opportunity as far as what we can expect for those dollars to be held.”

Wittman said the Broad Creek project was second on the list last year behind the Little Wicomico River dredging project. “You would think that when the Little Wicomico project is complete, the Corps would move on to Broad Creek, but we can’t count on that,” he said.

Board chairman Kenneth W. Williams said he knows Wittman is doing all he can do to get the funding for Broad Creek. However, Williams reminded Wittman that Broad Creek is the “economic engine” that drives Middlesex County.

Williams spoke of the many marinas on the creek and the number of people employed by those marinas. He noted the economy of the lower end of Middlesex is fueled by the tourist and boating industries.

Williams said boats are having to wait until high tide to get into Broad Creek. “People who own those big boats are not going to stand for that but so long, and then they are going to move to another creek.”

Supervisor Fred Crittenden said Broad Creek is the primary commercial creek in the county and he hopes Wittman will continue to do everything he can to find the needed dredging funds. 
“If there is anything we can do to help you with this, just let us know,” said Crittenden. “This is very important to Middlesex County.”

Wittman said he will continue to search for funding in hopes of “cobbling” enough money together to get the creek dredged. 

posted 08.23.2008

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