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Integrated Coastal Resiliency Assessment

Priority Issues: Drainage Ditches and Roadway Flooding

For generations, tidal ditches have been a local adaptation strategy for draining tidal waters from inhabited areas of the Peninsula during higher-tide events and storms. However, many of these ditches are now the cause of increased flooding on area roadways and properties due to limited maintenance and drainage capacity issues. Areas of Dames Quarter and Oriole are particularly prone to overtopping ditches. In some places, ditch flooding is severe enough to make roadways impassable, preventing residents from being able to leave or access their homes for hours on end. It also hinders residential access to critical public services provided by school busses, utility maintenance crews, and emergency services.

Many of the local tidal ditch issues are the result of clogs created by wetland grasses, sediment, and detritus that accumulates in ditches. These clog issues are being exacerbated

Tidal ditch at high tide in Oriole. These ditches are often filled to the top during routine high tides and drain fully during low tide. During extreme tide events and storms, many of these ditches overtop and flood roadways. 

by more extreme tidal and rain events impacting the lower Eastern Shore. Somerset County's maintenance department responds to ditch maintenance needs as they are able, but their capacity to meet increasing demands is hindered by limited funding and staffing, and a lengthy State permitting processes that draw out the time it takes for ditches to be cleaned. These limitations are being further stretched thin as ditch maintenance needs are on the rise across Somerset County with changing environmental conditions. 


Tidal ditches on Long Point Rd. in Dames Quarter often flood roadway during extreme tide and storm events. These photos show the road under dry conditions and flooded conditions

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