South Bethany beach replenishment pushed back to November

Beach replenishment work in South Bethany that was originally scheduled to take place this spring has now been pushed back a second time, from June to November of 2011, in the wake of concerns about the impact of the project on the town’s summer season.

An April 27 meeting hosted by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and organized by the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Carper included representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chamber, DNREC, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, Carper’s office, and the Towns of South Bethany and Fenwick Island, as well as state Rep. Gerald Hocker.

“The purpose of the meeting was to have Great Lakes Dredge & Dock – the company performing the beach replenishment work – and the Army Corps distribute and explain the most updated project timelines, and discuss the process involved and how to minimize the impact on the homeowners, renters and businesses in the towns of Fenwick Island and South Bethany during the project,” Chamber Executive Director Carrie Subity noted.

While the Bethany Beach portion of the project has already been completed, the 30-day timeline for the delayed South Bethany segment was scheduled to start in early June and finish up just after the Fourth of July weekend. The project is expected to include partial beach closures and work being performed 24 hours a day.

That meant it would have had a significant impact on South Bethany’s summer season, removing segments of its beach from use during a heavy period for property rentals to beachgoers, and posing potential problems with construction noise 24 hours a day when those vacationers would likely be seeking restful days and quiet nights.

”While all the stakeholders were appreciative of the federal monies supporting this important project,” Subity said, “they also expressed concern with the adverse economic effect of an active replenishment project in July.”

Subity said that, following the meeting, DNREC and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to fund the costs associated with moving the project from the summer months to November. As a result, the South Bethany project is now scheduled to begin around Nov. 1, following completion of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach project.

Work on the project in Fenwick Island, however, is being kept on its summer timeline. Subity said that, due to the type of equipment being used and other factors, the Fenwick Island project is expected to be 18 days shorter than the South Bethany project, slated to be completed by June 29.

The Great Lakes project team assured the group that they will do everything possible to minimize the project’s impact on homeowners and beachgoers, she said.

“I’m confident that the $22.7 million in emergency replenishment funding that Sen. Ted Kaufman, Congressman Mike Castle and I secured for our beaches will be put to good use,” said Carper this week. “Not only do full, replenished beaches protect our homes and business along the coast, but they also serve as the anchor for our important tourism industry.

“I’m glad that the scheduling issues were resolved,” he said, “allowing us to move forward on projects so that Fenwick Island will have a beautiful beach in time for tourism season and that other projects will not impact the summer season.”

The projects are all designed to repair the various coastline areas after damage sustained in the November 2009 Nor’Ida storm. Last August, Delaware’s Congressional delegation urged the Corps to use the funding provided in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 for the repair work.

Rather than spending that funding on a full-scale repair project in which Great Lakes would have both pumped sand onto the beaches and rebuilt the dunes themselves, state officials opted to use the funding to simply have as much sand as possible pumped back onto the damaged beaches.

State workers will then move the sand around the beaches as desired, to rebuild the damaged dune line and re-widen the depleted beaches, as has already happened in Bethany Beach.

The delegation had previously noted that, for every dollar spent on beach nourishment, the federal government collects $320 in tax revenue, making the projects a plus even in a time when the legislative focus is on budget cuts.