Recovery from the recent nor’easter, which hit Delaware’s beaches, will continue into the fall, according to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
DNREC’s post-storm work is set to begin this week in South Bethany, the community worst hit by the storm. Restoration work will then move south to north.
At each juncture, DNREC will clean up debris such as smashed dune fencing and will re-grade numerous access crossings. DNREC said it is also working on a nourishment project north of the Indian River Inlet which lost significant sand from the dune critical to protecting the roadway and the Indian River Inlet Bridge.
The nor’easter originally impacted the Delaware coast on the weekend of May 7 but the conditions lasted for nearly six days. This led to widespread erosion and damage on the beaches.
“The long duration of the storm and the post-storm wind direction mean we may not see a rapid natural rebuilding of the beach,” said Jesse Hayden, head of DNREC’s shoreline and waterway division. “The dunes did their job protecting our communities from being inundated, but by absorbing the impact of the storm, they suffered damage that affects people’s ability to access the beach.”
Mr. Hayden said DNREC’s immediate goal is to restore as much safe beach access in as many communities as possible for beachgoers to “enjoy a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.”
“The first pass made by our team will focus on cleanup and restoring access,” Hayden said. “When that work is done, we will begin repairing the damaged dune fence.”
Beach nourishment projects typically must be completed by April 15 or by March 1 at some beaches, with beach nourishment not permitted again until Oct. 1. But when Pickering Beach was impacted by a nor’easter on April 18, the Shoreline and Waterway Management Section received approval from DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife to replace sand that had washed onto the road back onto the beach.
The sand was then reshaped into a dune at Pickering Beach. The other bay beach communities experienced some erosion of newly placed beach and dune sand, but none of the towns where the nourishment was made experienced overtopping of the dune from the most recent nor’easter, according to DNCREC.
Several bay beach communities then experienced minor impacts from the more recent nor’easter that caused widespread erosion on both coasts.
Some of the truck-hauled sand from that project was moved around and lost because of the storm. But the winter beach nourishment at South Bowers, Bowers, Kitts Hummock, Pickering Beach and Slaughter Beach largely held its ground and worked to protect the communities in the face of high tides and winds, per DNREC.
The recently completed beach nourishment project in those five beach communities used approximately 52,650 cubic yards of sand — enough to fill almost 11 Olympic-sized swimming pools, DNCREC said. The next restoration phase spans the majority of the state’s coastline and will require DNREC to partner with the Army Corps of Engineers and affected communities to restore the coastline.
Along the Atlantic Ocean, large-scale nourishment projects in partnership with the Corps of Engineers will include Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island. Along Delaware Bay, DNREC will perform small-scale nourishment to further fortify the most vulnerable sections of shoreline.
“Our shoreline team will be hard at it for the foreseeable future on beach restoration priorities that this storm handed us,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “While restoring the beaches will not be instant nor easy, we are confident of surmounting the challenge ahead. We’re working on making the state’s beaches accessible and in shape for the summer. Of course, we also welcome the communities’ help in restoring the beaches just as they, and we, value our federal partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when expected beach nourishment projects begin in a number of these communities as early as next fall.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined South Bethany leaders on Monday, along with officials from DNREC and the Army Corps of Engineers to view the storm damage at South Bethany Beach.
Sen. Carper said he recently introduced bipartisan legislation, the Water Resources Development Act, that would help Delaware beaches with storm recovery. This legislation is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.
“We appreciated Sen. Carper’s visit today to view the storm damage to our beach,” said South Bethany Mayor Tim Saxton on Monday. “Sen. Carper has consistently worked to assure funding for beach replenishment here in Delaware. We support his efforts with the Water Resources Development Act to enable recovery from damage due to future storms.”