U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say pipe work in Rehoboth Beach will continue beyond Memorial Day, and that's a problem for Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper.
Crews are still extending the stormwater outfall pipe at Rehoboth Avenue. Laurel Street and Delaware Avenue extensions are yet to come.
Cooper said city officials don't know the work schedule or when work will end.
“They pretty much keep us in the dark,” he said. “It’s a big mystery to me. It seems to be so disorganized and, beyond that, secretive. It doesn’t have to be that way, I think.”
Corps spokesman Steve Rochette said crews will not work over Memorial Day weekend but no decision has been made about taking equipment off the beach over the holiday.
While the city does not have a direct say in the $800,000 project, as an add-on, Rehoboth officials authorized spending $200,000 on the Rehoboth Avenue pipe, where sand had been naturally eroding as expected, to prevent future problems.
Among Cooper’s frustrations is the order in which the pipes are being extended. He said he was told subcontractor Channell Construction would start at Delaware Avenue because that pipe lies deeper in the sand and requires a longer extension. The Delaware Avenue outfall will be extended 36 feet, while the Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street pipes will be extended 18 feet. Instead, work started at Rehoboth Avenue. The corps has said the contract allows the contractor to determine the order of work.
Cooper said extending the Delaware Avenue pipe alone could take as long as five weeks: three to drive in protective sheet piles and two to put in the extensions.
He said the corps has also indicated to him that the Laurel Avenue pipe could be extended now, while the Delaware Avenue pipe would be put on hold until the fall. However, he said, that could also conflict with the corps’ repair efforts for sand lost due to Hurricane Sandy. The corps received $30 million in federal funds to repair the coastal Delaware beaches. Cooper said the pipe extensions would have to be finished before sand could be pumped onto Rehoboth Beach. The stormwater outfall project is designed to prevent sand from clogging the pipes during future beach replenishments.
Cooper said while the corps will get better weather during the summer, crews will be hampered by crowds on the beach.
Project manager Ron Dooley said in mid-April he thought the job could be completed in a month. Rochette said rain in early April delayed the start of the project, and protective sheet pilings designed to protect workers from the surf while the extensions were installed could be put in only at low tide.
No matter what happens, Cooper said he did not want a repeat of last August, when heavy rains and the clogged outfall pipe at Delaware Avenue caused flooding of the underground parking garage at Brighton Suites Hotel on Wilmington Avenue, extensively damaging parked cars.