Infrastructure projects underway in Dewey

Oyster shell reef installed on Read Avenue bayside
October 3, 2019

A long-awaited infrastructure project in Dewey Beach got underway Sept. 5, when environmental experts began installing an offshore oyster shell reef off Read Avenue bayside’s Monigle Park.

Delaware Center for the Inland Bays Program Manager Bob Collins said the oyster reef is part of a shoreline project that will reduce the force of waves against the shoreline and protect against bayside flooding. 

Collins, Doug Janiec of environmental services firm Sovereign Consulting and CIB volunteer Bill Hitz spent the morning creating a braided reef with about 150 bags of oyster shells and cement block oyster castle nodes.

“The whole thing will dissipate wave energy,” Collins said. “It’s part of an integrated approach.”

CIB Science and Restoration Coordinator Marianne Walch said all of the runoff from a 30-acre drainage area collects at the outfall point at Read Avenue’s bayside, causing frequent flooding during storms. 

Walch said cement blocks and oyster shell bags will stabilize the shoreline, and provide habitats for small fish and other animals. The tidal marsh area will also be restored with new plants this spring, and a new pathway and kayak launch will also be installed, Walch said.

On Read Avenue oceanside, Walch said, a project to build a trench with plantings outside the Little Store grocery will take place after a Department of Transportation project set to begin in late September.

“We don’t want to do work at that intersection that DelDOT will rip out,” she said. “We are coordinating with DelDOT to have some input at that intersection and do some planning as they do the site work.”

The project will use permeable pavers so water can seep into and be filtered by the soil, and a charcoal-like material called biochar will be added to the soil to help remove pollution from the runoff and enhance plant growth.

CIB officials say reducing the impervious surface will improve drainage for a 2.7-acre area, reducing Read Avenue flooding. Reducing and filtering stormwater will also reduce pollution of Rehoboth Bay.

Dewey Beach Mayor TJ Redefer said everyone is excited the project is underway.

“This project has three main components: The living shoreline and dune, the tide gates and outfall work, and the offshore braided oyster shell reef,” Redefer said. “This nature-based living shoreline is a big step for little Dewey Beach that should have a significant impact on our town’s goals to build a more resilient community.”

Dewey infrastructure committee commissioner liaison Dale Cooke said the project could be a prototype for many bayside streets.

“We look forward to a long-lasting relationship between the town, the Center for the Inland Bays, the state and federal government to help abate shoreline erosion and some of the storm surge and tidal flooding that consistently inundates our low-lying infrastructure,” Cooke said.

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