Corps looks to replace lost Rehoboth sand

No timetable, but repairs to be 100 percent federally funded
January 31, 2013

Funding for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy is expected to be passed, but whether that money finds its way to repair damage in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach remains to be seen.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Rehoboth and Dewey lost a combined 270,000 cubic yards of sand, about 9,000 more cubic yards than was lost during the 2009 Nor’Ida storm.

Under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies program, the corps has the authority to restore project beaches back to prestorm conditions, paid for with 100 percent federal funding.

Part of the February 2012 beach replenishment project was repairing sand losses caused by the 2009 storm. The massive 2012 project put just over a million cubic yards of sand onto Rehoboth and Dewey.

Rochette said no timetable has been set on when crews will start work restoring Rehoboth and Dewey.

In December, the U.S. Senate approved a $60 billion package of aid for states affected by Sandy, along with nearly $10 million for the federal flood insurance program. The House of Representatives initially approved only the flood insurance money, which drew protests from representatives on both sides of the aisle from New York and New Jersey, the states that took the brunt of Sandy’s wrath.

On Jan. 16, the House approved $50 billion in aid, which when combined with the nearly $10 million in flood insurance funds, brings the total to the $60 billion already approved by the Senate.

Alexandra Barniea, spokeswoman for Sen. Chris Coons, said, “Both chambers have to pass the exact same legislative text before the president signs it into law. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, and we are hopeful that the Senate will be able to quickly pass a package that will help states affected by Sandy, including Delaware.”

Barniea said Gov. Jack Markell has estimated that initial preparations and response to Sandy cost the state $5.8 million, although much of that would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She said Markell is estimating an additional $90 million to repair damage from the storm and an additional $45 million for mitigation against future storms.

“Funding in the package does include several accounts for the Army Corps that could be used to repair the beaches," she said. "This is why it's imperative that we restore the beaches, so they will continue to protect our communities."

Barniea said she did not know how long it will take before work can begin.

Tony Pratt, administrator of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Shoreline and Waterways Division, said at this point, the state does not know what its role will be in beach restoration. He said once the bill is signed, the state will have a better idea of what funding will be available.

Katie Wilson, press secretary for Sen. Tom Carper, said the bill does not include a specific allocation for Delaware - or New York or New Jersey, for that matter. The bill appropriates funding to agencies such as the corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; other funding will be distributed as grants to states and municipal governments.

Wilson said the state's congressional delegation - Carper, Coons and Rep. John Carney - urged Markell's office to submit requests for Sandy relief funding. However, she said, how those funds will be distributed has yet to be determined.

One project DNREC will be taking on is repairing the sand fencing that was wrecked by Sandy's surge. Pratt said the department plans to rebuild the fences in the spring when the threat of nor'easter storms is past. Pratt said funding for repairing the fencing could be part of the federal beach repair package, although that has not been determined yet.

Most who lived through the Nor’Ida storm could attest to seeing serious erosion from the force of the storm. After Sandy, the beach appeared flatter but did not show  the extensive dune damage brought by Nor'Ida.

Rochette said when Nor'Ida hit, the beaches were in need of renourishment, while Sandy occurred within months of a major beach restoration - the largest project since at least 2000.

As for what happened to the sand lost during Sandy, Randy Wise, coastal engineer with the corps, said, “Much of the sand eroded during the storm is deposited in offshore bars and remains within project bounds. Some sand is transported alongshore by the storm and is permanently lost from the project.”

Wise said some of the sand deposited in offshore bars would slowly return through natural means, a process called accretion, where the beach regenerates during calmer weather periods. He said this process could take many months.

While the corps awaits the go-ahead to begin restoring Rehoboth and Dewey, it is moving ahead with the project to permanently extend three stormwater outfall pipes in Rehoboth.

During the 2012 replenishment, five stormwater outfall pipes were buried. The clogged pipes led to occasional flooding, including damage at the Brighton Suites hotel during a severe August storm, when the underground parking garage flooded.

The corps has said two of those pipes cleared through natural erosion, but pipes at Rehoboth and Delaware avenues and Laurel Street did not erode as fast as the corps anticipated. Throughout the year, the corps has had an excavator on standby to clear the pipes at low tide.

Rochette said New Jersey-based firm Reilly Construction Company was awarded the contract for the project with a  $822,000 bid. He said the corps will be giving Reilly the OK to proceed within the next 10 days. Rochette said construction on-site may take time to get started to allow for delivery of materials.