Exactly six months after Hurricane Sandy scrubbed the East Coast, replacing basements and roadways with floodwater and debris, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is poised to rebuild Delaware’s Atlantic shoreline.
Gov. Jack Markell and the U.S. Congressional delegation from Delaware announced that the state has secured up to $30 million in federal funding to rebuild Delaware beaches and dunes to pre-Sandy conditions.
All Delaware beaches on the Atlantic will gain protection and be prepared for the impact of future storms, including Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Indian River Inlet, Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island.
“This is a good investment: 1.8 million cubic yards of stuff is getting moved back in place,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, adding that the federal government has spent $300 billion since 2011 on storm response.
Delaware was partially protected by earlier beach replenishment projects that had strengthened much of the shoreline beach before Sandy. The legislators emphasized the importance of protective beaches that preserve eastern Sussex County’s tourism economy.
“When people talk about Delaware, beaches are the first thing they think of,” apart from the Route 95 freeway, said U.S. Rep. John Carney.
“Seven million people came to Sussex County as tourists,” said Sen. Tom Carper. “They put a whole lot of money in the economy.”
Lt. Col. Chris Becking of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said summertime beach replenishment will be the “least disruptive as possible.”
He recalled looking at the Hurricane Sandy damage. Beaches were flattened, businesses were closed, low-lying houses were flooded and water covered Route 1.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get this done.’ And all you gentlemen were looking at me, like, ‘When are we going to get this done?’” Becking recalled.
“This kind of collaboration doesn’t exist in most other places,” said Secretary Collin O’Mara of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Markell thanked the local communities — including legislators, tourism offices and chambers of commerce — for getting involved and being advocates for their home.
Design plans for the projects are already complete, with bidding now under way for contracts. Work is likely to begin in summer so that Delaware is protected for its heavy storm season in the fall.
Under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, the Army Corps of Engineers received Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) funding for the project. The exact amount won’t be announced until the bidding process is complete, but Delaware will not have to match any of the funds.
The project is planned in three sections, said Ed Voight of the Corps’ Philadelphia District. In June, the Indian River Inlet’s north dune will be built higher and wider, to restore it to the original design, which was never quite completed. Sand will be removed from the inlet, and the sand bypass system will maintain the continuous flow of tidal sand movements after that.
Repair of beaches from Fenwick to Rehoboth will follow, beginning in July. Lewes is the final target, a faster “truck fill” project, in which sand will be trucked across land, rather than dredged from offshore, as will be the case with the other beaches.