State and federal officials recently announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District had awarded a $23.8 million contract for beach replenishment projects in Delaware.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Ed Voigt said Dec. 20 the corps’ contractor, Weeks Marine of Cranford, N.J., is expected to begin mobilization in March, with expected completion before Memorial Day. Voigt said the schedule is based on the availability of the contractor.
Rehoboth will receive about 196,000 cubic yards of sand to be placed between the city tennis courts on Surf Avenue south to the bandstand. In Dewey, about 194,000 cubic yards of sand will be placed on the beach from Saulsbury Street south to Beach Avenue.
The amount of sand in Rehoboth and Dewey is on par with the 410,000 cubic yards of sand pumped in 2019, but less than the 620,805 cubic yards in 2016.
The cost of the projects is split between the federal government and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control – 65% federal, 35% state. The project, designed to reduce storm damage to infrastructure, has been done five times before – 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2019.
In addition to Rehoboth and Dewey, the contract calls for about 245,000 cubic yards in Bethany Beach, 287,000 cubic yards in South Bethany, and 207,000 cubic yards in Fenwick Island.
Michael Globetti, DNREC spokesperson, said the corps acts as the contractor for DNREC and the state on larger beach nourishment projects, so what they say goes as it relates to the timetable.
The amount of sand may be similar to last time, but the timetable is much later in the off-season than the past two rounds, both of which started well before Thanksgiving. However, it appears local mayors know they don’t have much say in scheduling and they’re aware beach replenishment is critical to the success of their communities.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills said he heard the notice to proceed was to be issued by mid-December, which starts a time clock and countdown to a defined completion date of mid-June. The city would very much like to have the nourishment project completed and demobilized well in advance of Memorial Day, so hearing of the latest timeline is better than reported earlier, he said.
“Regardless of the timing, our crews are ready to react and have the beach ready for summer 2023 as soon as is realistic,” said Mills. “We’re in for a good summer.”
Mills said everyone has seen the value of wide beaches and a healthy vegetative dune system to dampen wave action, and better protect the Boardwalk and seaside properties and buildings. When the beach and dunes succumb to storm activity as they are designed to do and there is little or no storm damage, it shows the value of having a regular program of restoration, he said.
Dewey Beach Mayor Bill Stevens said the town appreciates all that the state and Army Corps of Engineers have done to move this project forward to support the most valuable industry in the state and the most beloved pastime of Americans.
“We have been faced with many challenges over the last few years, and we as a town, community and caretakers of the state’s beaches will continue to show our resilience and support,” said Stevens. “The timeline is out of our control, and we will make the best of it. Let’s just hope that we are spared from another nor’easter after the work is completed.”
Meeting for study of state’s bays not yet scheduled
Beach replenishment isn’t the only project on which the corps and DNREC are working together.
In late November, the corps announced it had signed a feasibility cost-sharing agreement with DNREC to initiate a new study for the Delaware Inland Bays.
The study will evaluate various alternatives to manage risk from coastal storms that impact the state’s bays. The study area includes the Delaware Inland Bays and the Delaware Bay coastline in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.
The press release announcing the agreement said there will be a meeting within the first several months of the study to present the scope and to solicit initial comments from the public, agencies and stakeholders.
Voigt said the public meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet, but there are some meetings between the corps and DNREC planned for January so the two entities can discuss the expectations for the project. When the public meeting is scheduled, a notice will be sent out and there will almost certainly be a press release issued, he said.