Beach replenishment zips through Fenwick Island

After many complaints about the untimely nature of a sudden and unexpectedly early Fenwick Island beach replenishment, the project is equally suddenly done.

Town Manager Win Abbott said the project finished on Friday, Aug. 12, and on Monday he walked the beach from Lewis Street to the Maryland-Delaware border with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the contractor on the project, to check out the results.

Sections of the beach were closed in the peak of August, so town staff and officials, local Realtors and even the Coastal Point heard numerous concerns from vacationers and locals alike.

“Obviously, the time was a tad unfortunate,” said Todd Smallwood, vice-mayor of Fenwick Island, but he said sometimes you take what you can when someone else is paying the tab.

Smallwood said the State of Delaware paid the $4 million cost for the work, which would have equaled $6,200 per property if Fenwick Island had paid.

“Not long ago, I remember sitting along the dune crossing at high tide and there was no beach,” Smallwood emphasized.

Smallwood said he thanks Tony Pratt at Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for spearheading the project and including Fenwick Island in the beach replenishment work.

Abbott originally estimated that the project would be completed by Aug. 22.

“They just rolled right through, with perfect weather and apparently no malfunctions,” Smallwood said.

Abbott noted that the few mistakes were quickly righted, and a hydraulic pump allowed workers to continuously pump sand from offshore.

Smallwood recalled that the last replenishment project lasted around 3.5 weeks because sand was dredged by a tanker at sea, toted back to shore, dumped and then spread around.

Abbott said that after the “Nor’Ida” storm of November 2009, the beach was only 36 to 76 feet deep from water’s edge to the dune, which is roughly the size of the town council meeting room. High tide could reach the foot of the dune.

“When I walked through, it was level,” Abbott said of his post-replenishment tour. “The sand was darker, but it will level out.”

The sand was pumped through mesh .75 inches wide, so any pebbles brought ashore should be relatively small – no more than 7/8 inch when turned diagonally. Abbott said there should be no munitions – a hazard of dredging sand from off the Delaware shore, from which the U.S. military has frequently conducted weapons practice over the decades. A crew cleared the beach of work-related debris, such as burlap scraps.

There has been some concern expressed about the town’s northernmost beachfront, which was not part of the replenishment project, but Abbott said the natural tides have already begun to push the sand northward – a routine natural process that has been acknowledged in state planning of beach replenishment projects in the past.