The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is racing against the clock to finish three stormwater outfall pipe extensions before tourists arrive in Rehoboth Beach.
Work on the Rehoboth Avenue stormwater outfall is underway; Laurel Street and Delaware Avenue pipes are still to come. The corps has no timetable for finishing the work, but officials are optimistic the job will be finished before Memorial Day.
Project engineer Ron Dooley said he hopes to finish within the next 30 days.
The $800,000 project to extend stormwater outfall pipes are designed to prevent sand from clogging the outfalls during future beach replenishments. As an add-on, Rehoboth officials authorized spending $200,000 on the Rehoboth Avenue pipe, where sand had been naturally eroding, to prevent future problems.
Subcontractor Channell Construction, under the supervision of the corps and primary contractor Reilly Construction, began work on the Rehoboth Avenue pipe by driving sheet pilings in the ocean to protect workers from the waves. Dooley said the workers will use sand to build a barrier to keep water out of the area where the extension will be placed.
The Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street pipes will be extended 18 feet further into the ocean, while Delaware Avenue will be extended 36 feet. Dooley said the Delaware Avenue pipe will be longer because that pipe lies deeper in the sand than the others.
“It just sits lower in the sand. It’s going to get extended out further so it won’t be a problem in the future no matter how wide we make the beach,” he said.
Dooley said the old piles supporting the outfall pipes will be replaced. Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street will have a 30-inch pipe, while Delaware Avenue will have a 35-inch pipe, he said.
Early April rainstorms delayed the work, and the protective sheeting can only be installed during low tide, Dooley said. He said scheduling the work is up to the contractor; the corps contract gives a specified time for work to be completed, and it is up to the contractor to meet the deadline.
Dooley said as the spring weather has improved, construction crews have also had to deal with curious onlookers.
“It’s never good to have construction equipment on the beach when people want to come down and relax, but these repairs have to be done. We’ll do them as quickly and efficiently as possible and then clear out of the way,” Dooley said.
Although Rehoboth Avenue was the first extension, Channell has not yet determined which outfall will be next. Dooley said Laurel Avenue is not as far out into the surf so it could be done next; the contractor is not required to work in any certain order.
Dooley said the crew is small, only five to 10 people, but all have experience in this kind of work.
When Rehoboth Beach was renourished in February 2012, five stormwater outfall pipes were buried in sand. Sand in pipes on Maryland and Virginia avenues eroded naturally, as engineers had anticipated. The Rehoboth Avenue pipe eroded somewhat, while Delaware Avenue and Laurel Street pipes did not erode as the corps expected, Throughout 2012, the corps had an excavator on standby to unclog the pipes as necessary at low tide. Those are the streets where stormwater pipes are now being extended.
Last year, clogging of the Delaware Avenue pipe caused flooding, first, during a late August storm that inundated the underground parking garage at Brighton Suites Hotel and then on Delaware Avenue during Hurricane Sandy.