DE - WRDA brings beach replenishing, funding resources to towns

Bethany Beach Mayor Rosemary Hardiman made a beeline across the large conference room at the Center for the Inland Bays office, located on the inlet along the Indian River. She bypassed the U.S. senator hosting the roundtable on implementation of a new Water Resource Development Act.

She sidestepped the head of DNREC, who was already on his sixth stop of the WRDA road show. She nodded to her fellow mayors from Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and South Bethany, and the Sussex County Council president.

Hardiman embraced Jesse Hayden, DNREC environmental program administrator, who is responsible for beach replenishment and shoreline nourishment. To Hardiman and most of the 40-plus coastal town officials gathered to discuss a relief bill, Hayden is indeed the most important person in the room.

“You came through for us, Jesse, and I knew you would,” said Hardiman amidst the bear hug.

Hayden helped create two beach crossovers in downtown Bethany Beach, from the boardwalk to the shoreline, just in time for holiday shopping, a New Year’s Day ocean plunge fundraiser that drew more than 1,000 people (300 of whom took the plunge) and for small businesses to help recover from a nor’easter last year that created 6-foot-plus drops from the dunes to the beach.

“My decision about the priority beach replenishment following a natural storm event is often ‘Who needs it the most?’” said Hayden.

He was able to produce a double bank-shot in Bethany by using large sand deposits at Fenwick Island State Park and moving the sand by truck to Bethany and South Bethany.

“The sand deposits were for the mutual benefit of removal at Fenwick state park and for replenishment Bethany Beach,” said Hayden. “Hopefully, now families and residents will enjoy their spring break at the beach, with over five crossovers now complete at the Bethany access points and others under way.”

“At South Bethany, we have opened over half of the crossovers, and I am hoping we can complete more of them by spring,” said DNREC’s environmental administrator. “These are really just Band-Aid approaches, and the more permanent beach nourishment work will be taking place in the spring.”

In fact, the nourishment of the beaches and dunes will be later spring and likely into the beach summer season. DNREC indicated it will be working from north to south, from Lewes down. The prediction is that Bethany and South Bethany beach nourishment will be in late spring, taking place in May and June, when tourist season is under way.

“WRDA provides us with more flexibility to be responsive,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The meeting today is our sixth stop, and we are focused on how WRDA augments the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law and the SHORRE Act.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Garvin were traveling around Sussex County in late January to highlight provisions in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 that will assist local communities. They were joined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives including Lt. Col. Ramon Brigantti, commander of Philadelphia district and Delaware beaches region, and the community leaders from nearly every coastal town and Sussex County government.

Carper joined leaders from coastal communities in Delaware for a roundtable discussion on implementing WRDA 2022 legislation.

John Kane, senior policy advisor for the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, which Carper chairs, provided insight on the WRDA legislation.

“WRDA 2022 creates a Delaware-specific emergency authority, triggered by any nor’easter or storm event, and releases Delaware repair and restoration funds from a specific economic justification requirement,” said Kane. “It opens the door for more emergency assistance, even beyond the immediate impact, such as these estuaries of the Inland Bays and beyond, [saving] the local property values.”

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