Rock Hall Harbor Shoaling Problem : Request Made To Re-Locate 2 Day Marks

Along with  marine company operators and other interested businesses, a group of people including Rock Hall Mayor and Council, Senators Mikulsi and Cardin, Representative Harris,  has been trying to solve the shoaling problem at the entrance to Rock Hall Harbor before the busy boating season.  Ronnie Fithian (Kent County Commissioner and Town Manager of Rock Hall) has been in the forefront of this effort. As time is of the essence and the Chesapeake dredging budget is slim, Ronnie came up with an alternative and sent in a request to relocate the first two day markers you currently approach in an easterly direction. The request would shift the markers to an area east of the shoal where the water is deeper.  Ronnie believes this may buy us approximately two years before dredging will be an absolute must.

Congressman Andy Harris’s office put Ronnie in touch with a contact at the US Coast Guard, and the relocation request has been submitted.  Ronnie says he is hopeful that the response to his request is quick.

Below please find the background, portions of the letter from Ronnie to United State Coast Guard and a Google overhead shot of Rock Hall Harbor.



AUTHORIZATION: The Rock Hall Federal Navigation Project was authorized by the
River and Harbor Act of 1937 and modified in 1948, 1960, and 1980.

PROJECT PHASE: Operation and Maintenance
CONGRESSIONAL INTEREST: Senators Mikulski and Cardin (MD), Representative Harris (MD-1)
NON-FEDERAL SPONSOR: Kent County, Maryland
Located on the Eastern Shore of the northern portion of the Chesapeake Bay above Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge. The project provides for a channel 10 feet deep and 100 feet wide from 10 foot depth curve in Swan Creek Inlet to a channel of same dimensions, 700 feet long parallel to harbor terminals at Rock Hall; an anchorage basin of the same depth, 100 feet wide, 250 feet long in a northwesterly extension of the channel fronting the harbor terminals; an anchorage basin 8 feet deep, 100 feet wide and 350 feet long on an extension  of the center line of the 10-foot basin; an anchorage basin 8 feet deep, 200 feet wide and 600 feet long attached to and extending in a southwesterly direction from the west end of the above-mentioned 8-foot basin; with twin breakwaters at the harbor entrance. On 29 May 1980, the Chief of Engineers under authority provided by Section 107 of the 1960 River and Harbor Act, as amended, authorized construction of the following work: Raising the existing west and east breakwaters from four feet to seven feet above mean low water and extending the west breakwater 400 feet at an elevation of seven feet above mean low water; relocating the existing entrance channel at a depth of 8 feet and width of 100 feet; a new channel 8 feet deep and 100 feet wide from the new entrance channel near the County wharf to and including an anchorage basin, 250 feet square in the eastern end of the harbor. The entrance to the harbor has shoaled to a controlling depth of 4.5 feet, mean lower low water. An estimated 10,000 cubic yards of material will need to be removed to restore the authorized project depth of 8 feet with 2-feet of allowable over depth. The project was last dredged in 1998.

From a request dated April 16 by Ronnie Fithian to the US Coast Guard:

“I am writing to you on behalf of the County and Town to ask for your assistance in solving a big problem for the Town of Rock Hall. As I am sure you are aware, the Rock Hall Harbor has a severe shoaling problem at its entrance. Many boats are finding it hard to follow the navigation markers and enter the harbor without running aground. We have contacted Congressman Harris and Senator MiKulski asking to secure the funding to have the entrance dredged. They have both done a great deal in trying to help with this situation. But due to the financial situation across this country, we feel that this might not be possible at this time. But, if this is not corrected, the Town who heavily depends on the boating industry will surely suffer.
With summer coming on and the boating season rapidly approaching, we beleive that there is a temporary fix that you can help us with that would buy the Town some time and help get us through another year or two until we can secure the funding needed to have the shoal spot dredged. This can be accomplished by simply re-locating the first two day-markers you come to in an easterly direction to an area east of the shoal spot to where the water is deeper. This would help to navigate the boats around the shoal spot safely and Rock Hall Harbor could continue to be a favorite spot for all boaters. I would sincerely hope that you would contact me and give me a chance to further discuss this proposal with you or your representative.”


Rock Hall Harbor Entrance




  1. Great idea, and may certainly be our best temporary solution. Hopefully, though, the shoaling is not crossing the channel to the point that it is completely blocked at low tide. Having gone out to help grounded sailboats many times, there has typically been more water on the left side (outbound) than the right. However, just two weeks ago, a 37′ – 6′ draft boat departing the harbor spent the entire day through two high tides, stranded. Although it was a blowout tide, there was no clear passage on the left (red) side of the channel, which was not the case last year. He wound up calling a tow from the western shore. I am wondering if, in addition to moving the channel to the left, there isn’t some sort of minor maintenance procedure that could shave off the hump and push it aside out of the marked channel, without undergoing an extensive dredging operation. I really don’t know much about the procedures. As Ron has stated so well, the seriousness of the shoaling could easily have a negative impact on the Town’s attraction to recreational and commercial vessels during the busy summer.

  2. Dale Genther says:

    About a week ago we were taking the buyboat, P.E. Pruitt, which draws only about 3.5 feet, from the harbor to Gratutude Marina for haulout. at low tide. We plowed thru mud for about 50 yards just past the harbor entrance. We prpbably should have been over toward the red (left side leaving), but with such shallow draft we never though we wouldn’t be OK on the green side, which was the correct side for us anyway. I was surprised at how much shoaling took place over the winter.

  3. Robin Wood Kurowski says:

    Me, too Dale………we bumped around a couple of weeks ago, too. I am really thankful of everyone that has been so on top of this and trying to find the help and the solutions.
    Crossing fingers and toes that Ronnie gets an answer soon.

  4. John Wilson says:

    OK everyone, grab your kid’s and grandkid’s beach pails and shovels and start diggin’. When we’re done we can have a sand castle building contest on the Beach. (boaters turning lemons into lemonade)
    Best of luck Mr. Fithian and all those involved. We’re behind you all the way.

  5. Gren Whitman says:

    Ron Fithian at his best — quietly trying to get the job done!


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