Fenwick To Weigh Flood Mitigation Proposals

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials say they will begin to review five proposals the town received for an engineering study that focuses on flood mitigation.

On Tuesday, members of the Fenwick Island Infrastructure Committee agreed to schedule a meeting on Jan. 18 to review five proposals the town received for an engineering study. Councilman Richard Benn, committee chair, said the meeting will give members an opportunity to review the project’s scope and related cost estimates.

“I’m actually thrilled my initial cost estimates were actually fairly on point,” he said. “But there’s a lot to discern what everyone is proposing here.”

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 last 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.

To that end, the town council last month voted to have the infrastructure committee proceed with a $400,000 grant for a micro-level engineering study that will focus on bayside flood mitigation. In coordination with that effort, the committee also issued a Request for Proposals (RFPs) from engineering firms that could complete the study.

In an update Tuesday, Benn said the town received five proposals, with prices ranging above and below the $400,000 cost estimate. He noted, however, that the proposals included too much information for a recommendation to be made.

“After looking at all these RFPs last night, my head was spinning and I felt like we didn’t have enough time to properly analyze it all …,” he said. “I don’t feel I’m ready to discuss a recommendation to council today.”

Councilman Ed Bishop, a committee member, agreed. He said the main purpose of receiving the proposals was to submit costs to the University of Delaware, which is working with the town to secure grant funding for the engineering study.

“Given the complexities of these RFPs, I don’t think we need to pick a firm this week,” he said. “I think the goal was we wanted to get a dollar amount to UDel so they know what grant dollar amount we’re looking to get. That’s due on Friday.”

Committee member Tim Leahy said seeking proposals was the first step in securing funds through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant. He said approved projects would be announced in the fall.

“At that point the actual procurement takes place, and another RFP is required to make the grant,” he said. “So it’s a two-stage process.”

Bishop said the town was likely looking at a 2025 project, should the town secure grant funding. Once the study is complete, officials said the town would seek additional funds to begin resiliency projects.

“We’re looking at three-and-a-half years before we can start doing work,” Benn said. “It’s a little frustrating but also understandable … At least we’re getting started on it, and we are ahead of most other towns.”

After a lengthy discussion, the committee agreed to hold another meeting on Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. to review the five proposals.

The committee this week also agreed to form a working group with the town’s charter and ordinance committee to discuss recommendations that would strengthen resiliency efforts in Fenwick Island. Ann Riley, charter and ordinance committee member, proposed the group reevaluate the town’s freeboard ordinance.

“We’ll form another working group to work as liaisons with C&O and possibly an engineering firm that we select,” Benn said.

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.