Any day now, the federal government will decide whether it will pick up the full $12.2 million cost of repairing storm damage to Ocean City's beach replenishment project or whether the state will have to contribute up to 35 percent. Even if Washington pays the full tab this time around, it seems inevitable that the federal government will be less and less reliable as a ready source of funding for such expensive projects.
Regardless of the federal government's decision, funds for this round of repairs are assured. Maryland has $8 million in a beach replenishment account, financed jointly by the state, Worcester County and Ocean City itself. Under the worst-case scenario, this fund would take a $4 million hit for immediate repairs. With the state committed to an annual contribution of $1 million, and the county and city committed to $500,000 each, the fund would quickly replenish itself. The more troubling questions concern the long-term outlook.
The state's beach replenishment account aims to cover storm damage that might occur every four years or so. But this kind of damage is not totally predictable, and so far this year Ocean City has seen three severe storms. If that happened again during the next couple of years, the fund would quickly be depleted.