It's not prime time for Delaware Bay residents

Prime Hook Road is flooded on Thanksgiving Day. SOURCE SUBMITTED BY CLAUDINE BODIN
November 28, 2011

As sand was being pumped onto beaches in Lewes and Dewey Beach over Thanksgiving weekend, residents of Primehook Beach once again faced flooding issues. Prime Hook Road was nearly impassable Thanksgiving Day because of rushing water.

With millions being spent on beach replenishment up and down the coast, Primehook residents are asking: “What’s going on here?” No project is planned for Primehook.

As of yet, they aren’t getting any answers.

By now, most are aware of the story and issues. Storms over the past three years breached the dunes at Fowler Beach, allowing saltwater to freely flow into freshwater marshes in the Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. Fowler Beach is just north of the small town of Primehook Beach with its 200 homes and handful of year-round residents who live on a thin spit of sand.

Saltwater destroyed one of the large freshwater marshes in the refuge. That marsh not only provided habitat for wildlife and aquatic life, it also was an important buffer for the town and its only access to the mainland, Prime Hook Road.

Flooding was already a concern for residents, but it has now become a frequent problem, especially to those who live along the marsh.

An effort to fill in the inlets at Fowler Beach was unsuccessful and state and federal officials told residents no other work was planned for the immediate future.

Residents say every high tide and every storm create distress and safety concerns. A big storm could literally destroy many homes and cut off access to Primehook Beach.

The sad news is that the fate of Primehook Beach is only a precursor to what faces all other Delaware Bay beach towns over the next few decades.

A decision on Primehook’s future has to be made at the highest levels of state government. Is the town worth saving or not?

If it’s worth saving, a plan needs to be put into place immediately to rebuild the town’s access road and rebuild the all-important Fowler Beach dunes.

If not, legal steps need to be taken to buy out property owners and vacate the land.

No one seems to have the gumption to make that decision.

So the question remains: “What’s going on here?”


  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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