Road project takes jab at Prime Hook flooding issues

From left, DNREC Secretary David Small; Rep. Harvey Kenton (R-Milford), U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del); DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan; Gov. Jack Markell, Sen. Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes) break ground Monday on the construction of the Prime Hook Road improvements and bridge construction. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

From left, DNREC Secretary David Small; Rep. Harvey Kenton (R-Milford), U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del); DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan; Gov. Jack Markell, Sen. Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes) break ground Monday on the construction of the Prime Hook Road improvements and bridge construction. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

PRIME HOOK — For years, nor’easters and superstorms have pounded the Prime Hook Beach area — 3,000 acres of marsh have been destroyed since 2010.

Now, a collaboration of federal and state forces are fighting back against Mother Nature.
Bridge construction and improvements on Prime Hook Road will lessen flooding issues that have stranded residents at times and improve water flow throughout the preserve.

The project was billed as building “The Bridge to the Future” at a Monday morning groundbreaking.

The $1.35 million project contracted to Zack Excavating of Smyrna is scheduled for completion in mid July.

Delaware Engineering Society 2016 Engineer of the Year, Barry Benton, of the Delaware Department of Transportation speaks during the ceremony. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Delaware Engineering Society 2016 Engineer of the Year, Barry Benton, of the Delaware Department of Transportation speaks during the ceremony. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Crews began working earlier this month on new bridge construction on Prime Hook Road that will take traffic over a channel being constructed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Road improvements also are in the plans.

The youngest attendee received the most attention at the groundbreaking.

Milford Central Academy seventh-grader Allie Benton was cited as an example of the younger generation that now can plan to enjoy Prime Hook for years to come.

Her father, Delaware Department of Transportation Chief Bridge Engineer Barry Benton, oversaw the entire design and planning of the project. He said the channel and bridge will provide a “sustainable refuge that families can enjoy for generations and be able to provide better access for the residents.”

Allie, an aspiring marine biologist, didn’t have to worry about skipping school for just a short time — Gov. Jack Markell signed her excuse note.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, said, “We’re going to preserve a great gift from God.”

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., shakes hands with DNREC Secretary David Small during the groundbreaking ceremony at Prime Hook Monday. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., shakes hands with DNREC Secretary David Small during the groundbreaking ceremony at Prime Hook Monday. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

He noted funding was a near 50-50 split between federal and state money.

The project also will create an increased habitat and resiliency from future storms and sea level rise, DNREC Secretary David Small said.

“Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a key conservation and recreation area that supports important fisheries and wildlife habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds,” he said.
Al Rizzo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife project leader for the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said looked back at the project’s starting point.

“It’s been a long haul and it’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for 2½ years, but I guess anyone who has lived here … has lived it longer than me. …

“Our original plan was just to replace some culverts. This will restore the resilience of the (wetlands) that have been damaged by nor’easters and superstorms.”

Gov. Jack Markell gives his remarks on chilly Monday morning at Prime Hook. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Gov. Jack Markell gives his remarks on chilly Monday morning at Prime Hook. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.