Rebuild dune and protect marshes

January 26, 2016

Our Cape Region towns and communities have weathered many a nor’easter over the years, but few packed the vicious winds and surging tides that began Friday and lashed the coast and Inland Bays through high tide Sunday morning.

The storm gobbled up swaths of dune, and pounding waves undermined the north end of Rehoboth’s Boardwalk. It breached the dunes in Dewey Beach and points south, closing parts of Route 1 for more than 24 hours.

This year’s blizzard has been compared with the Storm of ‘62, when repeated high tides ripped up the Boardwalk in Rehoboth and destroyed houses and businesses all along the coast.

It is thanks to the restored dune that runs the length of the Boardwalk and south past Bethany that today protects our shoreline from the destruction of 50 years ago.

Many complain the cost of sand pumped onto the beach – and washed away with every major storm – is money out the window, yet rebuilding this dune is still the most cost-effective – and now most urgent – alternative to protect our coastline and our tourism industry. Beach replenishment was scheduled to take place this summer, and officials are working hard to ensure they don’t lose their place in line.

Still, while all attention is on the dunes, what about our inland communities?

Milton, along the Broadkill River, and communities along the Inland Bays suffered serious, widespread flooding, with some areas requiring evacuation. For these communities, the key to protection lies in protecting and rebuilding bay marshes so they can absorb tidal surges.

Sussex County officials hold simple keys to healthier marshes: require wide buffers along Sussex waterways and limit new residential and commercial construction that could increase runoff into our streams, creeks and existing marshes.

Government can do nothing to rein in Mother Nature’s fury, but citizens and government at every level can and must work together to minimize damage to our natural defenses by taking action to protect and improve not only our coastal dunes, but also our bays, streams and marshes.


  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.

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