Surfriders: Protect our waves

Prized surf spot north of Indian River Inlet due for beach replenishment
This section of beach along Route 1 north of the Indian River Inlet is a key surfing location along the Mid-Atlantic coast. BY RON MACARTHUR
May 10, 2013

An advocacy organization for surfers wants to ensure a prime East Coast surfing area is protected when officials replenish the beach north of Indian River Inlet.

In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, officers of the Delaware Surfrider Chapter questioned requesting bids for the project during the public comment period, March 25 to April 10. “Such actions signal that the Army Corps will not consider anything said during the public comment period and that no information received during the comment period will change the project since it is going out to bid,” states the letter.

The corps plans to dredge material from the bottom of Indian River Inlet and pump it onto the beach north of the inlet. A Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control crew will use the dredged sand to rebuild the beach, which was severely damaged by storm surge and waves as Hurricane Sandy passed by the area in late October.

The Surfrider Chapter has scheduled a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the Lewes Public Library with DNREC officials to gather more information about the project. The organization supports the use of soft shoreline stabilization, including the addition of sand, provided all forms of recreation, wildlife and other natural resources are considered.

“Surfing is an increasingly popular activity, and Indian River Inlet is one of only two areas in Delaware that is consistently surfable. Indian River Inlet should be managed in a way that accomplishes the mutual goals of protecting the roadway, while preserving or enhancing the beaches and surfing amenities and protecting fish and wildlife and the human uses associated with them,” the group commented.

John Doerfler, vice chairman, said the organization questions the environmental assessment done as part of the project. They intend to bring those issues to the forefront during the May 14 meeting.

The organization drew attention to the very first page of the assessment that listed Hurricane Sandy arriving on the East Coast in September, when it actually hit the area Oct. 29. “We find it amazing that such an incredibly important detail that has precipitated such a tremendous amount of work by the Army Corps could be wrong on a document like this,” states the letter.

They urged officials to use fine-grained sand to rebuild the beach. “We believe there is a connection between the material selected for beachfill projects and the slope equilibrium that creates good surfing,” the group wrote.

They said coarse sand creates a steeper beach profile and causes waves to break closer to the beach, while finer sand creates a flatter slope, waves breaking further offshore, which is ideal for surfing. The group is asking officials to allow Surfriders members to monitor beach conditions as work takes place.

“Our newest concern is how quickly this funding was secured and how it has already been designated to replenish the dunes and beach without, from what we know of, much public comment or planning. The motto seems to be just dredge,” Doerfler said.