The corner of Oceanview Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach was flooded, along with many other streets, due to the remains of Hurricane Ian on Monday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2022. Special to the Coastal Point | Butch Comegys

DE - Meeting focuses on beach loss, local floods

Striving to mitigate the impact of ocean warming, climate change and sea-level rise — which creates beach erosion and flooding in local coastal towns — might seem like a fruitless task. Mother Nature always wins.

“We are trying to combat sea-level rise and flooding,” said Cliff Graviet, Bethany Beach town manager, at a recent meeting of the Town’s Stormwater & Flooding Committee.

“Every nor’easter or high tide event, we have has the potential to wipe out what we have initiated,” said Graviet. “Whatever we do for beach replenishment, the tides and sea-level rise are becoming even stronger, and it will all eventually wash away.”

Ron Calef is a member of the Bethany Beach Town Council and chairs the committee. He said that residents care most about “being ready for summer and opening our beaches.” He applauded DNREC and Mayor Rosemary Hardiman for their work to open the boardwalk to beach crossovers to start the new year.

“It’s called ‘nuisance flooding’ here, but it impacts so many people, and sea-level rise is also critically important,” said Calef, who took the committee chair position last September and acts as the liaison to town council.

Bethany Beach is an incorporated town in Sussex County, Delaware, United States. According to the 2010 Census Bureau figures, the population of the town is 1,060; however, during the summer months some 15,000 more populate the town as vacationers. It is part of the Salisbury, MD-DE Metropolitan Statistical Area. Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island are popularly known as "The Quiet Resorts".

“We want to do a back-bay study to look at the requirements for a dam to actually work effectively,” added Graviet. “DNREC is supporting our project.”

The committee provided about 50 members of the public who attended the committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11, with an update on beach replenishment. DNREC is responsible for beaches and crossovers, the committee chair reminded the audience.

“We have one crossover that is active. They are building up beach sand on the south part of town for several others.”

“They are taking sand from the parking lot of Fenwick Island and trucking it up the beach. They are depositing sand in front of our ramps,” he added of work by DNREC. “They hope to open all of our ramps this spring.”

The dune in Bethany Beach is growing, through natural sand deposition.

“They will have a lot of sand to move to make many of our crossovers functional,” said the town manager.

It is a $23 million project, and Bethany Beach will require 240,000 cubic yards of sand just to replenish the crossovers and dunes area, noted the committee. Rehoboth and Dewey beaches are first in line for beach replenishment, as DNREC works from north to south, and Rehoboth Beach officials told Bethany Beach officials they hope their work will be done soon. But it may not be as soon as Bethany would like.

“We may see replenishment during our summer tourist season, just based on the timing,” said Graviet.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth — we should not look at our prize DNREC horse in the mouth,” said Graviet to some chuckles from those in attendance.

Bethany officials noted that the replenishment is paid for with 65 percent federal government funding and 35 percent state government funding, with no impact on local taxpayers.

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