FENWICK ISLAND — Amid questions about the timing at the height of the summer season, a vast beach replenishment project is expected to get underway any day now in Fenwick Island.
The Army Corps of Engineers this week began the staging process for a federally-funded emergency beach replenishment project in Fenwick Island, the first stop in what will be a months-long restoration process for the beaches along the Delaware coast. During the project, roughly 389,000 cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beach in Fenwick from offshore borrow sources and spread over about 6,500 feet of shoreline. The intent is to restore the beach and protective dune line ravaged during Hurricane Sandy last October and other winter and early spring storms to their pre-storm conditions.
While few question the intent of the project, concerns have been raised about its timing at the height of the summer season. The contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, began the staging process for the project on Wednesday with a huge pipe extending from the dredging equipment offshore onto the beach at Atlantic Ave. Also on the beach on Wednesday was the tall tri-pod-like piece of equipment that has become familiar to local residents and visitors during recent beach replenishment projects.
While the set-up was largely in place by Wednesday afternoon, no actual pumping had begun. Fenwick Island Town Manager Merritt Burke IV said this week the project will take an estimated 3-4 weeks, which would take it through much of August. The pumping had not started yesterday, but was expected to begin on Friday. Burke said he understood the public’s angst over timing of a major beach replenishment project during the height of the summer season, but said the town of Fenwick had no control over the timetable.
“There are a lot of questions out there and they are justified,” he said. “The thing to remember is, this is a federal project and we have no control over the timing or the schedule. They’ve been a pleasure to work with and they’re cognizant of our summer season, but this is their project.”
Burke said he worked with the Army Corps to possibly move the timetable back, but the tight window for the expansion project, which will ultimately head north to restore the beaches in Bethany, Dewey, Rehoboth and Lewes, for example, made altering the schedule difficult.
“I did everything I could to get this pushed back and make it as palatable as possible,” he said. “We know the timing isn’t the best, but now we have to do our best to mitigate the effects and make the situation as best as possible.”
Burke said Fenwick is the southernmost link in the chain in the line of Delaware beach towns from the Maryland line heading north, which is why it was likely chosen as the jumping off point for the vast project. A similar situation arose two years ago when emergency repairs were required on the Delaware beaches and the project began in Fenwick during the summer season. Logistics and practicality necessitated starting in Fenwick and moving north, officials reported then.
Fenwick’s beach replenishment is part of a $30 million project to restore the Delaware beaches ravaged by Sandy and other coastal storms last year. However, many have said the beach in Fenwick has never been wider and the dune system appears healthy.
In South Bethany, roughly 476,000 cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beach, while Dewey and Rehoboth will get a combined 455,000 cubic yards. Overall, from New York to Virginia, an estimated 26 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto the beaches at an estimated cost of $600 million.
Meanwhile, Ocean City’s beaches will also undergo a major replenishment project with the help of the federal Army Corps this fall. While the exact timetable is uncertain, Ocean City’s project will begin after Labor Day. Almost immediately after Sandy passed, Army Corps of Engineers officials arrived in Ocean City to assess the damage and began to make determinations about what action would be needed to restore the damaged beaches.
The contract will also include the reconstruction or repair of the dune system that stretches from the northern end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line. Also included in the contract is providing and planting of dune grass and providing and installing rope fencing. The contract duration will be approximately 210 days from start to finish and the wide cost range for the project is estimated at anywhere from $10 million to $25 million.
The plan is to coordinate Ocean City’s emergency replenishment project needed to repair the damages from Hurricane Sandy with the resort’s normally scheduled beach replenishment project this fall. The Ocean City beach is routinely replenished every four years with periodic emergency projects needed.
The next regularly scheduled replenishment project is set for 2014, but the plan is to coordinate the upcoming emergency project with the regular replenishment schedule, essentially killing two birds with one stone.
Beach replenishment began in Ocean City in 1994 through a 50-year agreement with the town, Worcester County and the state of Maryland partnering with the federal Army Corps of Engineers, which provides over 50 percent of the funding for the massive undertaking.