A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative says tidal control systems that could protect communities along the Inland Bays from storm surge are expensive and unlikely to be implemented.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee invited the corps representative to the group's Sept. 19 meeting to discuss what has been done or could be done to prevent future flooding in parts of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island.
During Superstorm Sandy, Inland Bays communities did not feel the brunt of the storm the way New Jersey and New York areas did; however, Sandy's high tides flooded the area, said Jeff Gebert of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District.
“It took Fenwick and South Bethany Beach longer to peak, but when they did, it took longer for the water to drain,” he said.
In answer to a question about modifying the inlet to mitigate Inland Bays flooding, Gebert provided an example of a tidal control system in place near St. Petersburg, Russia, that provides protection to the city during tidal surges.
Such systems, however, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Gebert said.
“It's a question of who pays for it,” he said. “A barrier could keep out storm surges, but I think it's an unlikely solution for Indian River.”
Committee member Bob Batky asked whether filling in deep holes the lie within the Indian River Inlet channel would help prevent future flooding.
Gebert said filling the depths would decrease the flow of water into the Inland Bays, but would also limit flushing action to refresh the bays.
Several Inland Bays communities have been targeted for inclusion in an ongoing North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study that began following Hurricane Sandy, Gebert said.
“I feel like for the time being, we're safe,” said Nancy Cabrero-Santos, CAC chairwoman.
Included in Gebert's presentation was a chart detailing mean sea level trends for the Inland Bays area over the past century. According to the chart, sea levels in the Inland Bays area have risen about a foot over the past 100 years, or about 3 millimeters a year, a trend he said could continue.