Fenwick Committee Sends Project Recommendation To Council

FENWICK ISLAND – An effort to improve drainage on West Farmington Street will advance to the town council with a favorable recommendation from a resort committee.

On Tuesday, the Fenwick Island Infrastructure Committee voted to forward a favorable recommendation to the Fenwick Island Town Council to include a street drainage improvement project in the town’s capital budget.

Officials say the project – estimated to cost roughly $31,000 – is expected to improve water quality and reduce ponding in the roadway between Our Harvest and Eclectic.

“It’s a pretty simple plan,” said Erik Hughes, representative with the engineering firm AECOM. “It’s not a large project, it’s part of your overall project that included West Indian and Delaware Avenue and Indian Street. It’s a small part of a larger project that we believe will improve the drainage situation in town.”

Town Manager Terry Tieman said Fenwick Island began working on projects that address drainage, stormwater infrastructure and runoff in 2013. Since that time, she said, the town has completed improvements on several side streets, as well as a study on sea level rise and planning for improvements along Delaware Avenue and West Indian and West Farmington streets.

“That’s where these projects came from,” she said.

In a presentation this week, AECOM representatives outlined plans for the West Farmington Street project. Project Manager Kyle Gulbronson said the improvement project would be similar to the one completed on Dagsboro Street in recent years.

“What these projects will do is improve drainage and create as much storage as we can …,” he said. “This improvement won’t prevent flooding during a storm situation, but it will improve drainage and eliminate the ponding that is occurring during minor rain events.”

Hughes explained perforated pipes, additional catch basins and gravel trenches would be installed toward at the easternmost side of West Farmington. The new piping system would then be connected to existing outfalls.

While the project would impact a few properties on the south side of the street, officials said the work would likely be completed in the off-season.

“We are looking for a solution that considers that there’s a limited budget and that we want to have limited disruption to the residents and businesses that are in town,” Hughes said.

While the project would address nuisance flooding at the intersection of West Farmington and Coastal Highway, some residents noted it would do nothing to address tidal flooding on the westernmost portion of the street.

“Our biggest problem is the catch basins …,” said resident Bob Warburton. “That is causing us much more problems than the flooding up by [Our Harvest] because the backflow preventer at the end of that pipe has never worked and maintenance is almost nonexistent. Every time we have a high tide the water just backs up in that catch basin and creates more problems than what it’s worth.”

While admitting the project did not address tidal flooding at the west end of the street, officials said the town was planning to install new backflow preventers that would alleviate the problem.

Tieman added the town needed additional studies to address the tidal flooding issue.

“We cannot solve this flooding problem,” she said. “That is a sea level rise and climate change issue that will require major investments from the state and federal government, and there will be investments that property owners may have to make … In the end, the solution to sea level rise is very expensive.”

Committee member and Councilman Bill Weistling said the town could reevaluate flooding issues along West Farmington once the proposed improvement project was completed.

“Let’s do the work and see what happens when the work’s done …,” he said. “The problem might be solved. If not, we will go back and address it.”

After further discussion, the committee voted unanimously to forward the drainage project to the town council with a favorable recommendation.

“I think people need to understand this is not a correction of everything,” said Councilman Bernie Merritt, committee chair. “It alleviates some of the smaller problems, but we will still be faced with large rainfall ponding.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.