University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

WDDE: Beach replenishment — vital defense or futile gesture?

Delaware’s beach replenishment program may help in the near term to protect shore homes and businesses from future storms like Hurricane Sandy, but critics say it’s an expensive and ultimately futile effort to defend the existing coastline against rising sea levels. This year’s program isn’t due to start until some time in July, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract. When it does, a total of 1.9 million cubic yards of sand – enough to fill about 1 million pickup trucks — will be dumped on beaches at Bethany and South Bethany, Rehoboth and Dewey, and Fenwick Island. In a separate operation, more sand will be pumped onto the north shore of Indian River Inlet south of Rehoboth Beach.

The work will be focused on repairing damage done by Hurricane Sandy even though the monster storm dealt Delaware only a glancing blow in comparison with the devastation it wrought on New Jersey and New York.

The exact cost of this year’s project won’t be known until the contract is awarded, said Steve Rochette, a spokesman for the Philadelphia office of the Army Corps of Engineers, which partners with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to implement the program.