Dewey seeks grants to reduce bayside flooding

Officials: Investment of $35,000 could bring $600,000 in improvements
February 24, 2017

Story Location:
Read Avenue
Dewey  Delaware  19971
United States

According to FEMA-produced flood insurance maps, nearly two-thirds of Dewey Beach lies within a special flood-hazard area.

In no area of town is that more evident than the Rehoboth Bay end of Read Avenue. As shown in a photo by the Cape Gazette’s Ron MacArthur during the nor’easter that hit the Cape Region less than a month ago, bay waters lap against the seat of a Monigle Park bench near what is supposed to be a protective dune.

To that end, during their Feb. 11 meeting, Dewey Beach commissioners unanimously approved contributing $35,000 toward a Delaware Community Water Quality Improvement Grant application that has the potential to help with Read Avenue’s regular flooding. The town also agreed to write a contribution-free letter of support toward another grant application, this time at the federal level, that could help slow the erosion of Sunset Park at the bayside end of Dagsworthy Avenue.

The Center for the Inland Bays will write both grant requests, and will have a March 15 submission deadline.

Emily Seldomridge, center watershed coordinator, and Doug Janiec, a senior program manager for Sovereign Consulting Inc., were on hand to explain the details. Seldomridge said implementation of these projects is contingent on grant funding.

Janiec described a plan that calls for a redesign of the riprap, a wall of shell bags, planting of marsh grass, an increase in the size of the dune, the installation of a flood barrier at the base of the dune to provide structure and a plunge pool to absorb storm-related flood waters. He said there would be four mechanisms to reduce wave action from further eroding the shore line – rocks, marsh, beach and then the dune. He added that no project would alleviate all flooding, but this has the potential to go a long way.

Seldomridge said the plan has already been vetted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and the Delaware Department of Transportation.

As for Sunset Park, Seldomridge said it’s a pared-down version of a past NOAA Coastal Resilience Grant application that did not receive funding. This is a highly competitive program, she said, and the center is hoping this plan is a more realistic approach.

Janiec said this project would include planting marsh grass, a small artificial reef and a wider public beach. He said between the two projects, the town had the opportunity to leverage a $35,000 investment into more than $600,000 worth of flooding prevention.

Commissioner Mike Dunmyer said these projects are tests, but they’re the type of projects the town has to look into to address bayside flooding. There’s an element of experimentality, he said.

The town and the center are not strangers. Most recently, in May, the town agreed to spend $50,000 toward a Surface Water Matching Planning grant from the state. Seldomridge said the center was still working on the planning grant, separate from the new grant proposals.

There were a number of the town’s residents in attendance who had questions about the proposed projects.

Read Avenue resident Phil Winkler sent an email in December to Mayor Dale Cooke requesting the town move forward with a plan of action to address the flooding. He described these projects as wonderful, and he said they had his full support.

A McKinley Avenue resident said the Read Avenue project could result in more severe flooding on her street. “Where’s the water going to go?,” she asked.

Janiec said the flooding on McKinley Avenue originates from Read Avenue.

“There will be nothing but a positive impact on McKinley,” he said.

This is the second meeting in a row Dewey commissioners have taken action to begin addressing flooding.

During their January meeting, town commissioners agreed to send to the planning and zoning commission a request to look at a change in town code allowing property owners in flood zones to preemptively raise their buildings to meet FEMA requirements.

Dewey’s town code doesn’t address the issue specifically. Chapter 185, section 59, discusses properties that are damaged by fire, storm, infestation or other peril not caused intentionally by the property owner.