Heavy equipment for beach work at the end of Rehoboth Avenue will be moved in time for Memorial Day visitors.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed an extension on the Rehoboth Avenue stormwater outfall pipe and is moving equipment to Prospect Street for the debut of the summer season.
Corps spokesman Steve Rochette said the corps will start work at Laurel Street and Delaware Avenue Tuesday, May 28. Laurel Street work is expected to wrap up by June 21, with Delaware Avenue to follow in late July.
Mayor Sam Cooper said the key to this plan, which was mapped out in a May 21 meeting between city, state and corps officials, is the Delaware Avenue outfall, the longest and most problematic of the three.
Cooper said there were several factors in the corps’ decision to try finish Delaware Avenue as soon as possible. Cooper said project manager Ron Dooley has indicated the pipe is already filling with sand as the beach naturally rebuilds after Hurricane Sandy; in addition, the corps wants the Delaware Avenue pipe finished before the fall hurricane season, when the surf will be rougher. The project must also be completed before beach replenishment begins to restore sand lost during Hurricane Sandy. Cooper said the corps would bring in a second crew for Laurel and Delaware avenues to speed up work.
Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, who attended the May 21 meeting in support of the city, said the corps’ original plan was to finish Rehoboth Avenue and Laurel Street and then come back in the fall. However, at the May 21 meeting, this was changed: Work will continue through the summer so the Delaware Avenue pipe will be finished.
Cooper said he did not want a repeat of last August, when a clogged Delaware Avenue outfall led to major flooding in the underground parking garage at Brighton Suites Hotel.
If the outfall were clogged and Rehoboth had a major storm, the chances of flooding would be very high, he said.
Schwartzkopf said work will continue in June and July when the winds, surf and tides are generally mild.
“The ocean is a different beast in September than in June and July,” Schwartzkopf said. “It’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term project.”
He said one of the reasons for the delays is the sheet pilings for the protective wall can be installed only at low tide, and the crane used to install them cannot operate in winds greater than 20 mph. Schwartzkopf said this spring has seen numerous days of heavy winds, not to mention typical April rainstorms.
Rochette said the initial timeline was based on negotiating and awarding a contract with contractor Reilly Construction. Work on the outfalls has been done by subcontractor Channell Marine Construction.
"Weather is always an issue when working on Atlantic coast beaches, and was accounted for in the planning. Work itself was scheduled as soon as all of the necessary submittals were submitted and approved," Rochette said.
The original deadline for completion was April 30, and Rochette said liquidated damages will be assessed against the contractor for any delay other than weather delays.
Schwartzkopf said Reilly is taking a more active role to finishing the project and will bring in not just a second crew but also a second, taller crane to install the Delaware Avenue extension. The taller crane is required to drive the protective pilings further out into the ocean.
With the new crane, the second crew will come in to install pilings at Delaware Avenue. Once the pilings are in place and Laurel Avenue is finished, work will begin at Delaware, Schwartzkopf said. After the pilings are in place, he said, crews could work 11 hours a day, seven days a week installing the extension.
Rochette said the crane will be on the beach until Laurel Street and Delaware Avenue are complete.
The outfall extension project has been a source of frustration for Cooper, who expects city officials to be better informed when it comes to scheduling. He said the city has found out about delays only at the last minute.
“I’m not happy where they’re at,” Cooper said. “But here we are.”
This, despite the city contributing $200,000 for the Rehoboth Avenue extension, which was offered as an add-on. The city commissioners approved funding for the Rehoboth Avenue extension to prevent any problems with future beach renourishment projects. The total project is estimated to cost $800,000.