FENWICK ISLAND – Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the construction of flood walls and a structural dune in Fenwick Island highlight proposed plans to protect Route 1 from sea level rise.
In a town council meeting last week, Magdeburger updated community members regarding the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) SR 1 Coastal Corridor Resiliency Study.
Magdeburger noted she had attended a community workshop last Monday, where state officials provided a presentation and question-and-answer session on the study. She said a range of mitigation alternatives to improve resiliency along Route 1 – from flood walls to structural dunes – were also shared.
“What they have proposed for Fenwick is that they want to raise and regrade part of Route 1,” she explained. “Then they want to have exposed or buried flood walls with deployables on the west side of the highway.”
Magdeburger said she had asked DelDOT officials if the agency would work with coastal municipalities to discuss planned projects that would protect both Route 1 and nearby residents. She also asked the agency to elaborate on how the plan would impact bayside residences and businesses.
“The answer to that question was we would be doing further modeling,” she said, “that obviously they are concerned there would be water coming from hightides, and that they wouldn’t be able to dam that without future consideration.”
Last year, DelDOT applied for, and was awarded, a grant to conduct a resiliency study of Route 1.
The goal of the DelDOT study, the agency reports, is to examine the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on transportation infrastructure and to incorporate resiliency measures in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of projects.
“DelDOT has been and continues to be challenged by the effects of sea-level rise (SLR) and frequently flooded roadways,” a statement reads. “And the SR1 corridor between Dewey Beach and the Maryland state line is particularly vulnerable with effects coming from oceanside as well as bayside.”
The statement continues, “This section of SR1 is a primary evacuation route for Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, and Ocean City, Maryland. This planning study will allow the Delaware Department of Transportation to develop short and long-term solutions to help protect this important roadway for both the economic stability of the state and the safety of the traveling public.”
In last week’s update, Magdeburger noted that the town recently completed its own resiliency study, which included a recommendation to build a sea wall throughout town.
“It may require that bulkheads be raised,” she said. “The good news is it doesn’t have to be done tomorrow. Better news is we probably have over a decade to make this transition.”
She encouraged officials to work together with state and federal agencies on projects identified in resiliency studies. Magdeburger noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also started its own resiliency study.
“It will be important to coordinate with the Army Corps of Engineers so that each of us aren’t sort of protecting our own, but that we are protecting all of us …” she said. “This is something we should continue to pay attention to.”