Pratt: Fenwick Island beaches in good shape

Fenwick Island dunes and beach are in good shape, according to Tony Pratt of DNREC, but Pratt said, as a whole, the coastal community needs to be diligent that beaches stay a priority. Pratt spoke with the Fenwick Island Town Council about the importance of the dunes and beach nourishment at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting and explained his concerns about federal funding for repairs from the November hurricane/nor’easter, or Nor’Ida, as it has become known.

“Prior to construction of nourishment projects, it was always the top two or three items of political candidates,” he explained of replenishment. “Since it’s constructed, we don’t let our guard down. We need to be vigilant to sustain it. We need to do our due diligence to make sure that beach is maintained.”

Pratt explained that the U.S. congressional representatives from Delaware are working hard to try to get spring supplemental funding for beach replenishment, but even if they did, Fenwick Island would not be a top priority for the work, he said.

“Part of my dilemma is, if the federal government will put some money back in, if we can get an early spring supplemental and if there is enough to do something everywhere, my personal preference would be Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Rehoboth Beach, and then Fenwick Island probably fourth on the list, based on need.”

He explained that, because of the positioning of Fenwick Island along the Delaware coastline, combined with the diligence of Ocean City, Md., in maintaining its beaches and of the State of Delaware in maintaining the state-controlled beaches, Fenwick’s beaches are in a good spot. He emphasized that there are places in Bethany Beach and South Bethany where dunes are totally gone and there is “scant beach” They probably wouldn’t do anything in Fenwick Island until next winter, regardless, Pratt noted.

“Fenwick Island had more sand to begin with, and with Ocean City taking care of its beach and that flowing into Fenwick Island, and Delaware taking care of its beaches – between the two, plus the littoral drift rate is less in Fenwick Island – it’s more balanced.”

He did say that Ocean City has a contract that precludes any replenishment work in July and August but added that, if Bethany Beach and South Bethany put on the table allowing dredging in July and August, there might be a way to get something done cheaper.

“There might be way to get low construction costs because somebody is already out there,” Pratt suggested. He is due to give a similar presentation in South Bethany in February.

As far as maintenance from the State of Delaware resources since the storm, Pratt explained that they are working diligently and trying to get past the winter storm cycle.

“I have very little horsepower – and by horsepower, I mean manpower,” he said, adding that there are four people working for the whole state – pushing 12 miles of sand back up and rebuilding the dune crossings. “We are doing what we can with the four people I’ve got.”

When asked about possibility for volunteer help in restoring the beaches, Pratt noted that volunteers are always welcome for beach-grass planting projects. He pointed out that they have previously had as many as 1,000 people involved in those projects, up and down the coast. The planting of dune grass is designed to help stabilize the dunes.