The triennial beach replenishment of Rehoboth Dewey and Dewey Beach was completed roughly two weeks ago, yet some beachgoers are questioning where the 409,000 cubic yards of sand have gone.
In an interview Nov. 27, Michael Powell, Shoreline & Waterway Section administrator for Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the sand is still there, but it’s in the shallows of the ocean immediately offshore.
Powell said beach replenishment is designed to reduce storm damage to infrastructure. Which, he said, happens even if the sand has been pulled out to two, three, four or five feet of water because it helps break the power of the incoming waves.
Prior to the completion of this year’s $7.2 million project Nov. 15, beaches in Rehoboth and Dewey had been replenished four times before – 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2016. It’s the third time in a row contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. was hired for the project, which is a joint effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control – 65 percent federal, 35 percent state.
Powell said it’s not unusual for the first storm after completion of a replenishment project to pull sand back into the water. In this case, he said, the storm occurred right after the project was completed.
Powell said normally the sand is pulled back into the ocean gradually, leading to scarping – sand cliffs – along the shoreline. The beach is unnaturally full of sand immediately after replenishment, and any kind of heavy wave action is going to cause erosion, he said.
Powell visited Rehoboth Beach shortly after the project was completed and he said he thinks the beach looks full and the sand is still in the system. He went at low tide, and he said there was a noticeable lump of sand along the shoreline as normal wave action brings the sand back to shore.
The Rehoboth and Dewey beach replenishment project isn’t the only one on Delaware’s coast this offseason.
Powell said the replenishment of Delaware Seashore State Park beach immediately north of the Indian River Inlet is still on schedule to begin in January.
The project is in conjunction with dredging of Massey’s Ditch. The $3.6 million contract calls for 100,000 cubic yards of sand to be dredged from the popular waterway connecting Rehoboth Bay to Indian River Bay.
The 100,000-cubic-yard project almost equals the total amount dredged from Massey’s Ditch since the channel was completed in 1957. According to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice in October 2018, the federal government dredged 39,000 cubic yards in 1980, while DNREC dredged 10,000 cubic yards in 1987; 15,000 cubic yards in 1990; 7,000 cubic yards in 1991; and 30,000 cubic yards in 2002.