An October nor'easter temporarily delayed a $25 million Delaware coastal restoration project, but the work is back on schedule and should be completed by the end of the year.
“There was some minor beach erosion. We were delayed a few days, but weather delays are always built into the schedule,” said Ed Voigt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.
The beach restoration project includes pumping dredged sand on beaches in Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach and trucking sand onto a quarter-mile stretch of Lewes Beach starting at Roosevelt Inlet. It also includes restoring the beach on the north side of Indian River Inlet to provide protection to Route 1 and the Indian River Inlet bridge.
Dredging has progressed north along the coast to Rehoboth Beach; dump trucks started transporting sand to Lewes last week. Funding for the entire project comes from the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 passed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Voigt said $19 million will be spent to restore the Atlantic coast beaches, $6.5 million for the inlet project and $750,000 for the Lewes project.
The restoration project comes on the heals of a $40 million replenishment project in 2011 that rebuilt some of the same areas.
The beaches are being built back to their profile before Sandy passed off the coast one year ago on Oct. 29, 2012. The hurricane, also called Superstorm Sandy, caused $68 billion damage in the United States and claimed nearly 300 lives. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history with winds spreading out more than 1,000 miles.
Work to repair and replenish Broadkill Beach along the Delaware Bay will take place next spring, Voigt said, as part a Delaware River-Bay channel deepening project. Broadkill will receive 1.9 million cubic yards of sand from a dredging project to deepen the shipping channel to 45 feet.
No bids were received on the project this past summer, and the project will be re-bid in late winter. “There was just too much other work going on at the time,” Voigt said.
The channel deepening project – in the planning stages for more than 15 years – is unique in that no state funds are being used; funding is from the federal government and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, Voigt said.
Two storms with dramatic differences
The nor'easter the second week in October lasted as long as the famed Storm of '62, which decimated the Cape Region. However, the two storms were decidedly different.
Tides, wind velocity and wave sizes reached extreme heights during the first week in March 1962, said Tony Pratt, manager of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Shoreline and Waterway Management Section. Winds topped out at 50 to 60 mph and Atlantic Ocean waves towered as tall as 30 feet. Pratt said winds in the recent storm gusted as high as 30 mph, but sustained winds remained in the 20 mph range; waves rose to about 10 feet in the ocean.
Pratt said the winds in the 1962 nor'easter were powered by a low-pressure area 1,000 miles out at sea directly off the coast of Delaware. Called a fetch, the long distance the wind blew across the ocean created the high waves. The fetch in the recent storm ranged from 50 to 100 miles offshore, Pratt said. “It was a much different sea scape,” he said.
The 1962 nor'easter ripped apart thousands of coastal homes and businesses, causing $500 million damage in today's dollars.
March 6-8, 1962, was also a time of extremely high tides because it coincided with the March 6 new moon. Higher tides, winds and waves combined to flood some areas with as much as five feet of water in the '62 storm. A high tide of 9.5 feet is still the record in the area.
The recent storm flooded low-lying areas in the Cape Region, but the beaches received no significant damage, Pratt said. “What we are having now is seasonal displacement of sand; it is pulled offshore and will return in the summer,” he said.
The Storm of '62 actually produced little rainfall compared to the six to eight inches that fell during the recent nor'easter. The recent storm also played havoc with the 2013 Sunfish World Championship hosted by the Lewes Yacht Club. Wind and waves in Delaware Bay forced the cancellation of three days of five days planned for racing.
The recent storm seemed to last forever, but as a weather event, the fall nor'easter of 2013 is considered a typical weather occurrence in the Cape Region.
Rehoboth work will not disrupt Sea Witch Festival
The Rehoboth Beach portion of the coastal beach nourishment project began Oct. 23. Work will not interrupt plans for this weekend's Sea Witch Festival.
The pipe that delivers sand from the dredge is on the beach at Virginia Avenue. According to Rehoboth Beach officials, the dredging crew will rebuild the beach to meet the prescribed depth in the area immediately surrounding both sides of the pipe. From there, the crew will install piping along the beach as needed to work in a southerly direction filling about one block of beach per day. After reaching the southern project limit near Stockley Street, the crew will go back to their starting point at Virginia Avenue and work to northern project limit near Oak Avenue.
Work will continue around the clock for about 2½ weeks. About 1,000 foot sections of beach will be blocked off to create work zones.