Delaware seeks $2.5M in disaster relief for beaches

DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell plans to seek $2.5 million in federal disaster relief to help rebuild coastal infrastructure damaged along Delaware’s beaches.

The governor made the announcement near the beach at Collins Avenue in Dewey Beach on Wednesday.

Last month’s winter storm damaged sand dunes, the north end of the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk and stormwater pipes.

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Gov. Jack Markell, left, and Tony Pratt, shoreline administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, got a firsthand look Wednesday at work beingerey Beach in the aftermath of recent storms. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

But the money will be used towards storm damages and not for repairing the sand dunes.

“The money will be specific through a project,” said A.J. Schall, director of Delaware’s Emergency Management Agency. “The money for the beach itself is through the Army Corps of Engineers, as that’s where that money comes from.”

“But the boardwalk in Rehoboth needs some repairs, so it will go towards fixing those types of problems,” he added.

The sand dunes are a natural barrier to destructive forces of wind and waves. Sand dunes are the beaches’ first line of defense against coastal storms and erosion.

They also absorb the impact of storm surge and high waves, preventing or delaying flooding of inland areas and damage to inland structures.

The estimate damage for the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk is $400,000, said Mr. Schall.

Gov. Markell said the decision to ask for the funds was based on the estimated cost of the damages.

“It was a question of math,” he said. “At first we thought the damage might not be sufficiently high. But once we did the work and saw the damage, we said if the resources are there we need to apply for it.”

Mr. Schall said that process might take up to 90 days.

“It’s hard to tell right now,” he said. “All the states are doing some sort of snow or storm damage as well. It can take 60 to 90 days sometimes.”

But Delaware Department of Natural Resource crews have been cleaning up debris and have begun the process of rebuilding the dunes.

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In the aftermath of recent storms and damage to Delaware beaches, DNREC crews have been repairing dunes as sand continues to naturally accumulate on the beaches. Gov. Jack Markell and other state officials were on hand Wednesday to review the work at Dewey Beach.

“I appreciate them a lot,” Gov. Markell said. “It’s about two dozen of them. They’ve been doing phenomenal work. “They’ve been clearing up mud, clearing up debris, sand and just been doing really great work.”

Mr. Schall shared the same sentiment.

“DNREC is working the best that they can to get it done as soon as they can,” Mr. Schall said. “They don’t want to wait towards the spring and summer to get this done, but now just in case another storm comes.”

Anthony P. Pratt, the state’s shoreline and waterway administrator, said they’re doing the best they can to repair the sand dunes.

“We started the day of the storm,” Mr. Pratt said. “That’s when we started getting ready for the next one.

“The next storm that’s out there— I don’t know when that will be, but we try and get as ready as we can. We’re always ready for the next one.”

Dewey Beach Mayor Diane Hanson said the storm not only affected the beaches, but the entire state, as well.

“We want these repairs done,” Ms. Hanson said. “It affects the state’s economy.

“There are workers like carpenters, real estate agents and others that benefit from being down here. This has an impact, but we’re glad everything is being repaired.”

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