Fenwick Exploring $400K Grant For Engineering Study

FENWICK ISLAND – A Fenwick committee will move forward in seeking a $400,000 grant for a new engineering study.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to authorize the town’s infrastructure committee to proceed with a $400,000 grant for a micro-level engineering study that will focus on bayside flood mitigation. Councilman Richard Benn, committee chair, said the engineering study would be one step toward making Fenwick Island more resilient.

“I just want permission to proceed with using the grant assistance program at the University of Delaware to proceed with writing the grant proposal,” he said. “We should have the proposals from the engineering firms back in mid-January.”

In 2021, the town contracted with AECOM to conduct a resiliency study, which outlined short- and long-term solutions to sea level rise and flooding. And in August, the infrastructure committee held an information session, during which officials collected feedback from the public on topics such as drainage, bulkhead height and funding.

In a November update regarding the town’s resiliency efforts, Benn told the infrastructure committee he and committee member Susan Brennan had met with the University of Delaware’s grant assistance program regarding grant funds that had recently become available. He said that funding could allow the town to complete an engineering study.

In order to seek grant funding, however, the town must first seek cost estimates from engineering companies. In last week’s town council meeting, Councilman Ed Bishop said requests for proposals would be sent to interested engineering firms. He explained the town would have cost estimates by Jan. 8.

“That will give us the pricing we need for the grant,” he said.

While the infrastructure committee has requesting proceeding with a $400,000 grant, which would require a 25% match from the town, Benn said it remained unclear how much the study would cost.

“My best guess right now is it’s going to be around a quarter of a million, but it could be $400,000,” he said.

In regard to the matching funds, Benn said the town had excess realty transfer tax funds available, as well as $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money. However, he said the committee could provide more specifics at the council’s January meeting.

“We’ll be able to come back and vote on the exact amount at the January meeting …,” he said.  “But this would be an engineering study that would come in and look at literally all the lots on the west side of town and how we could make ourselves resilient against sea level rise.”

Benn said the study would explore topics such as bulkhead heights, stormwater removal and more. For her part, Mayor Natalie Magdeburger applied the idea of an engineering study.

“It’s a lot more money, but it’s gonna give us the answers to what we need to do …,” she said. “This is probably one of the biggest things we hear from bayside residents, do something.”

After further discussion, the council voted 7-0 to authorize the infrastructure committee to move forward in its efforts to secure grant funding.

“Because of what you all are doing, we are ahead,” Magdeburger said of the committee. “But it’s still a race because we are going after the same pot of money.”

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.