Replenishment, outfall ramping up Lewes maritime activity

November 3, 2017

Maritime industrial activity in the Roosevelt Inlet area of Lewes has amped up big time in the last couple of months. Most of the new activity centers around the docks along the mouth of the Broadkill River, just inside the inlet. It all reinforces Lewes’s historic and strategic position as a harbor and port at the mouth of Delaware Bay.

Tugboats, large steel barges carrying tall cranes, the Army Corps of Engineers’ newest survey vessel, and several smaller support vessels all figure in the mix. They have joined commercial fishing vessels, a tow boat, state enforcement vessels, Coast Guard vessels stationed at the Roosevelt Inlet facility, and the launch vessels serviced at the maintenance facility for the Pilots Association for the Bay and River Delaware to make that area a busy scene night and day.

Stormy Harrington owns and operates Riverside Park just west of the state launching ramp and the field office for the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation operations. Barges, cranes, tugs and crew vessels involved in beach replenishment projects along the Maryland and Delaware coast have tied up along the river bank at his facility.

“Lewes is about the only staging option left for maritime companies doing work along the coast. Ocean City, Md., doesn’t have a place anymore, and Indian River Inlet’s north side has been riprapped with stone so it’s no longer an option. We’re happy to have the business,” said Harrington.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, out of Oak Brook, Ill., has $21.8 million in contracts to replenish beaches for Ocean City, and Fenwick Island, South Bethany and Bethany Beach in Delaware. That work started in October and will continue for the next several months. The equipment, pipes and crews for those projects are all moving through Lewes.

Just down the river from the Riverside Park, the firm placing the ocean outfall pipe for Rehoboth Beach is staging its operations alongside state docks. Manson, out of Seattle, Wash., has a $27 million contract to lay 6,000 feet of pipe to carry treated wastewater seaward from Rehoboth Beach.

According to information gathered by Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokesman Michael Globetti, “DNREC has executed an agreement with Manson for use of the Lewes Field Facility to off-load the outfall pipe. The pipe will be lifted by the large marine crane Manson has onsite onto barges in the Broadkill River so the pipe can be welded together and then towed out to the site off of Rehoboth. There it will be laid on the ocean bottom. Crew boats will use the Lewes Field Facility docks for shift changes. Manson is paying the state $1,000 per month for the use of the site. The pipe operation will be ongoing for a few days.”

At the same time, the Pilots Association has provided space at its docks for a shiny new aluminum Army Corps of Engineers survey vessel. Steve Rochette, spokesman for the Philadelphia District of the Army Corps, said the HR SPIES Survey Vessel was christened in May 2017 in a ceremony in Philadelphia. “The vessel is named for the late Bob Spies who served as the chief of our Surveys Section for many years,” Rochette said.

Rochette said the $4.3 million vessel and its crew are currently conducting hydrographic surveys and channel exams of the lower Delaware Bay. “The surveys are being conducted as part of the ongoing Delaware River Main Channel Deepening project.”

In a gesture of professional courtesy - and a nod to the Army Corps work so vital to the shipping industry that sustains the pilots -  the Pilots Association is providing dock space for the survey vessel at no charge, as available. That arrangement has been in place at pilot facilities in Lewes for decades.  

All of this recent maritime industrial activity adds up to millions of dollars’ worth of vessels operating in and out of Lewes and making contributions to the local economy.

  • Dennis Forney has been a journalist on the Delmarva Peninsula since 1972 and has been writing his Barefootin’ column for The Whale and then the Cape Gazette for more than 30 years. Contact Dennis at