FENWICK ISLAND – Citing cost concerns, a Fenwick Island committee last week agreed to seek estimates for a dredging project deposit site at Seal Island and at a nearby kayak launch.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee met to discuss planning for a dredging project in the neighboring Little Assawoman Bay. As committee members and consultants are work to select a deposit site – including Seatowne, a residential community to the north of Fenwick, and Seal Island, an area of land located in the middle of the bay – the group last week voted to complete a cost estimate for placing its dredged material at Seal Island and at the Fenwick Island kayak launch.
“If our options are Seal Island and Seal Island happens to be $200,000 more expensive than the kayak launch or Seatowne … is that the direction we go?” said Councilman Bill Rymer, committee chair. “When it’s all said and done, we have to be respectful of our taxpayers and of Fenwick.”
While Rymer said the community would like to use material from the town dredging project to reconstitute Seal Island, he noted it would take larger discussions on sediment retention, material usage, maintenance and cost. In a recent meeting with Delaware State Parks officials, consultant Tony Pratt noted there was some indication the agency preferred other deposit sites, including areas near the kayak launch.
“They are very enthusiastic about beach rebuilding, if that’s the option you all ever look at. In my mind, maybe it emerges as the number two choice rather than Seatowne …,” he said. “Seal Island is very much problematic to them … they’d like to see [the material] on the beach.”
Committee members, however, agreed it should explore cost estimates before exploring other options for its dredged materials.
“I still feel as a group our objective is to figure out if we can make Seal Island happen …,” Rymer said. “Let’s exhaust our options before turning away from Seal Island.”
Rymer noted the town must complete an alternative analysis and design work for the Seal Island site. It would also require a conceptual cost exercise.
“To develop an accurate cost estimate for something like the restoration of Seal Island, you have to do some conceptual designs …,” said Steve Bagnull, consultant with Anchor QEA. “There is a bit of work involved.”
Rymer, however, said it would be of some benefit to the community.
“Everyone here is saying we expect Seal Island to be more expensive than Seatowne, and we feel the kayak launch will be similar or less expensive than Seatowne …,” said Rymer. “Do we want to make the decision as a committee to forego Seal Island, or spend $6,500 to figure out just how expensive Seal Island is so that we can have an open conversation with the community, that we’ve done the research to conclude Seal Island is cost prohibitive?”
Following further discussion, committee members agreed to gather a cost analysis of using either Seal Island or the kayak launch area as a proposed deposit site for its dredging project.
But Rymer noted it is still considering a proposed partnership with Seatowne, which has plans to use Fenwick’s dredged material for a wetland restoration project near the community.
“The HOA leader said it certainly feels like when they go to a vote, it will likely result in a majority yes …,” he said. “While it would’ve been nice for Fenwick’s benefit to have them signed off already, I recognize why they didn’t want to do that. In their eyes it’s putting the cart before the horse for their community.”
Plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town hired Pratt, former administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to guide them through the funding and permitting processes. By the following year, Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, was brought on board to provide design, bidding and construction management services.
Since that time, the town has explored numerous deposit sites for its dredged material, including a parcel of land off Route 54 owned by the Carl M. Freeman Companies. When those plans fell through, Fenwick officials turned their attention to Seatowne.
“This project for the town has been a long time coming,” committee member George Murphy said last month.