Delaware Beaches Secure $30M For Replenishment Work

FENWICK — Beaches in Delaware got a much needed shot in the arm this week with the announcement of up to $30 million in federal replenishment funds for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy last fall, while Ocean City awaits a formal timeline for its own beach restoration project.

Delaware officials this week unveiled a plan to utilize roughly $30 million in federal funding passed through the Army Corps of Engineers to repair and restore the beaches from Rehoboth and points north to Fenwick Island severely damaged and eroded by Hurricane Sandy last October. The funding will be provided to the Army Corps for Delaware through the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and will restore the First State’s beaches to pre-Sandy conditions.

Symbolically, Tuesday’s announcement came on the six-month anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in the mid-Atlantic region. The plan calls for pumping almost two million cubic yards of sand back onto Delaware beaches. The sand will be used to restore Delaware beaches and repair the vast network of dunes.

Delaware officials said on Tuesday the planning and design work had been completed and the project was ready to be put out to bid. Although no timetable was announced, the major restoration project will likely begin around the heavily damaged Indian River Inlet area with work done on the municipal beaches likely after the summer season. For Delaware officials, the $30 million federal investment will be money well spent.

“Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and while Delaware did not have the severe damage that our neighbors to the north experienced, Delaware did see widespread flooding that caused damage to many of our homes and businesses,” said Senator Tom Carper on Tuesday. “I am so pleased that we are not only going to repair our beaches, but that the Corps is going to construct a truly protective beach and dune. It’s a smart investment to reduce potential losses and protect lives, homes, businesses and infrastructure.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said the federal investment in Delaware’s restoration will help ensure the state’s beaches will hold up against similar storms in the future.

“Because we are a low-lying state, extreme storms pose a real threat to us,” he said. “Citizens, businesses and infrastructure are affected when an area floods. My thanks goes to our Congressional delegation for securing the funding that’s allowing us to restore damaged beaches and dunes and shore up our vulnerable areas so we can mitigate the potential impact of future storms.”

Meanwhile, Ocean City’s beaches will also undergo a major replenishment project with help from the federal Army Corps of Engineers although the scale and scope will not be as large as the vast Delaware project. In April, the Army Corps released a pre-solicitation notice for an extensive emergency renourishment project that will ultimately pump a million cubic yards of sand onto the barrier island.

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. Over five months later, the Army Corps in April released a pre-solicitation notice to begin soliciting bids for an extensive replenishment project.

The eventual contract will also include the reconstruction or repair of the vast dune system that stretches from the northern end of the Boardwalk to the Delaware line. Also included in the future contract is providing and planting of dune grass and providing and installing rope fencing.

The eventual 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 timetable for the project remains uncertain, but with the arrival of another summer season, it will likely be pushed back until the fall.

Ocean City Engineer Terry McGean said this week the federal funding share has been secured and the bid process is getting underway.

“The Corps has gotten funding approval and the work is expected to start in the fall, but that is all I know right now,” he said. “We have a pre-bid meeting scheduled for May 17, and we should have a lot more information after that.”

McGean said the hope is to coordinate the emergency replenishment needed to repair the damages from Hurricane Sandy with the normally scheduled Ocean City beach replenishment project. The Ocean City beach is routinely replenished every four years with periodic emergency projects as needed.

The next regularly scheduled replenishment project is set for 2014, but McGean said the hope is to coordinate the emergency repairs needed for the Sandy damage with the regular replenishment cycle.