Exactly six months after Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast, Delaware officials announced the state will receive roughly $30 million in federal funding to replenish its beaches.
"We were spared the brunt of the devastation that our neighbors to the north experienced," said Gov. Jack Markell at the April 29 announcement. "Thanks to beach nourishment that was completed last year, hundreds of millions of dollars of potential damage was prevented, but we were not entirely spared."
Markell said during the October storm, Delaware's beaches endured heavy rains, strong tidal surges, significant flooding, beach erosion and other impacts.
"Our shoreline and our coastal infrastructure did suffer losses," Markell said. "The [Indian River Inlet] bridge, Route 1, and our shoreline were affected and they are all vulnerable to flooding in future storms."
According to Markell's office, under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received federal Flood Control & Coastal Emergencies funding to restore Delaware beaches not only to pre-Superstorm Sandy conditions, but to their original design profiles. Almost two million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto Delaware beaches in various projects along the shoreline.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said it took a lot of "pushing and pulling back and forth" with Congress to reach an agreement on a package that could reimburse, compensate and restore communities in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware.
"More than $300 billion has been spent on storm response and recovery since 2011," Coons said. "Frankly, as sea levels rise and as storm events get more intense, we're going to have some real challenges to face in the federal government. This funding is 100 percent federal, but crisis response, investment in infrastructure and investment in ways to strengthen our communities has been a part of federal spending since the founding of the republic."
Markell said a dune system and a beach along the north side of the Indian River Inlet will be constructed, and repairs will be made to the Indian River jetty. The dune and beach will be maintained by the sand bypass system, which is already in place and pumps sand from the southern side of the inlet to the northern side to maintain the beach.
"This project will protect Route 1 and the bridge from future storm events," Markell said. "It also removes sand from the inlet and helps keep navigation open to boats."
Additional nourishment projects will be completed at community beaches in Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, South Bethany and Fenwick Island. These projects will include beaches, dune systems, beach grass and crossovers.
Lt. Col. Chris Becker of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers said summer beachgoers are likely to run into this work, as all projects will begin within the next two months and are slated for completion prior to the start of hurricane season.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's not great to come on your summer vacation and see construction equipment on the beach," Becker said. "I think if people are able to take a step back and think, 'The reason there is a beach here for me to come to is because of this work,' hopefully they'll understand."
Delaware's beaches have born a tourism industry that contributes greatly to the state's economy. According to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Delaware, the coastal economy generates about $7 billion annually and supports around 59,000 jobs.