Fenwick Group Questions Town Stormwater System

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials say more work is needed to understand the town’s stormwater system.

On Tuesday, members of the Fenwick Island Infrastructure Committee initiated a discussion on the town’s stormwater system. As flooding issues continue to plague bayside residents, committee member Jay Ryan said more information on drainage infrastructure.

“Until we get a handle of everything in our system, to figure out where the water is coming from and how to get rid of it, it’s never going to work,” he said.

Ryan told the committee this week the town had conducted a stormwater infrastructure inventory – which maps out manholes, drainage pipes and more – in 2013. He noted, however, that the schematic was no longer accurate.

“I think it wasn’t accurate in 2013, and I know it’s not accurate in 2023,” he said. “To get a handle on our drainage system, we need to know what we have.”

Committee Chair Richard Benn agreed. Officials noted that the public works department had recently found a reinforced concrete pipe that led to the bay.

“Nobody knew it existed,” he said. “It was below another pipe that was depicted in the survey.”

Officials said they also wanted the town to address the lack of bulkheads on Bora Bora Street and update a list of residences where rain gutters connect to drainage pipes.

“I’ve already done that inventory and there’s a lot of residents on the bayside that run their gutters into a pipe that runs into the canal,” Public Works Manager Mike Locke added.

Ryan told committee members this week that the first step in addressing the town’s flooding issues is getting a better understanding of the stormwater system.

“That’s our step one,” he said, “gathering the different pieces of information that’s available and ascertain what our existing system is and go from there.”

Officials noted that the town’s stormwater issues would also be addressed at an information session scheduled for Aug. 31. That day, committee members will present the results and recommendations of a resiliency study conducted by AECOM.

“We are hoping to provide information to the community and have a discussion,” said committee member Tim Leahy.

In December 2021, the town selected AECOM to complete GIS mapping of Fenwick Island and develop short- and long-term solutions to sea level rise and flooding. And in March, the infrastructure committee received its first presentation of the resiliency study, which not only identified recent and ongoing resiliency initiatives, but proposed actions to alleviate flooding.

Leahy told committee members last week the upcoming session would give community members an opportunity to share their thoughts on potential resiliency projects.

“This is a community wide problem that requires a community wide response,” he said.

Officials noted the recommended solutions to sea level rise and flooding would likely cost the town tens of millions of dollars. Resident Ann Riley questioned if the town had reached out to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

“At what point do you get DNREC involved?” she asked.

Leahy pointed out that town officials were already working with DNREC and the Delaware Department of Transportation as it seeks solutions to flooding.

“Engaging with the state is already underway and we will be continuing that in a more active way,” he replied.

Benn agreed.

“We anticipate this to be the first of many meetings because we as a community have to decide how we are going to do this,” he said.

An information and discussion session on the town’s resiliency study will be held Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. at Fenwick Island Town Hall.

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.