Ocean View brings forth drainage project

Last Wednesday evening, Aug. 15, a special meeting was called in Ocean View to present to the community plans for efforts to improve drainage, and to address concerns of the citizens. The meeting, presented by town engineer Alan Kercher and mediated by Town Manager Conway Gregory, introduced the six-phase project that, over the course of the next six to seven years, is planned to help alleviate drainage issues throughout the town.

Although no bids had been received at the time, the cost for Phase I — encompassing Hudson Avenue, the north extension of Longview Drive and parts along Woodland Avenue that exist just north and south of Hudson — is estimated to run the town somewhere between $260,000 and $300,000, noted Gregory. Total project cost for all six phases is projected to sit somewhere around $1.9 million.

Phase I was identified as one of the top areas of concern, and as long as the town goes to bid in a timely fashion, said Kercher, construction could begin as soon as October, with a completion date sometime around the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008. The remaining phases are expected to be completed in the subsequent years, one phase each year.

“The plan started out addressing the open swale system on Hudson Avenue, basically from the intersection with Longview [Drive],” said Kercher. The ditch currently ends at a “finger” of marshland that extends itself outward. The new system will divert drainage and runoff past that finger to a ditch near the western end of Hudson. “We’re going to extend past there to the existing ‘formal’ ditch, by laying a pipe in the trench.”

Two piping systems will be presented in the bid contract: a standard piping system, where a pipe is laid and back-filled with compacted soil, and a more complex system, as used in The Cottages and through much of Fenwick Island and Rehoboth, where a stone trench is lined with a geo-tech fabric that helps to protect against runoff while serving as an eco-friendly alternative.

“We want to go to bid at both options,” said Kercher, “because the [stone-lined] trench is the best system, long-term. It takes the least amount of maintenance and performs very well over time. It is the more extensive option, though.” Prices for each system will be compared before the final decision is made.

The improved piping will also solve a safety issue, as parts of the ditch in some areas measure several feet deep and wide. At most, the new proposed piping systems will slant in the middle to a measurement of, at most, 9 inches, according to Kercher.

The systems will not solve every single drainage problem in the town, Gregory and Kurcher stressed. “As flat as Ocean View is,” said Kercher, “we’re in a tidal area — there are storms where we won’t eliminate all drainage problems. These systems are designed for a 10-year storm event, which is approximately 6 inches of rainfall, a fairly significant storm. So, in your average summer rainfall, these will do great. Now, if we get 10 inches of rain with a storm, you’re going to see water — there’s just nothing we can do about that.”

Citizens of the town came with their concerns, many of which dealt with the well-being of the environment.

“My concern is the wetlands,” said David Long Sr. “I own quite a bit of marsh. It’s dying out from runoff, and there’s a lot of pollution going in it. I want to know how you are going to address that. It’s not the same as it used to be years ago.”

“[The improved system] reduces water quantity and improves water quality,” Kercher responded. “If the town decides to go with the premium system, it will help the quality [by eliminating sediment build-up].” He also mentioned the idea of “storm sectors,” which have been implemented in Rehoboth. These are man-hole sized filters that use a hyper-dynamic progression in large catch-basins to filter out sediment. “If we invest in something like this, we’re adding $50,000 to $75,000 to the project. With our new system, we will have water going to the ditch [at the western end of Hudson], rather than into the marsh.”

Beth Evans doesn’t want to lose the wetlands upon her property on Hudson Avenue. By diverting the drainage, she asked, “Would the wetlands, which are on my property, potentially die off?”

“You have runoff and a lot of water source there, but it really shouldn’t affect the [status of existing wetlands],” said Kercher. Town officials even played with the idea of bringing an expert to the scene to determine whether a substantial amount of wetlands would be lost or if they would cease to exist as a result of the drainage system.

Others brought with them the idea that construction in Phase I did not address other portions of the town.

“Most of the problems that I’m aware of depend on the weather and the exact storm and the conditions,” said Ocean View resident Jim McAllister, “but we have existing problems from recent developments that aren’t associated with this type of plan.” He proposed that the town present a “more comprehensive plan to know what’s going on with the rest of the town.”

“I wonder whether these dollars could be better spent with consideration of a longer-term storm. I would rather spend dollars for emergency preparedness in the 25- to 50-year category storm. We need a longer-term result in what’s been done recently.” He added that development of areas within the town has an effect on citizens as well.

“There’s a comprehensive plan of the entire town being done while this project is being taken care of,” said Ocean View administrative official and Public Works Supervisor Charlie McMullen.

“These are issues that have been going on for a while and that’s why we’re addressing them now. This is the project that became prioritized as No. 1. However, there are five other projects that have also been studied by the Sussex Conservation district, which is the governing authority, and by DNREC when these developments go in,” he added.

Included in the next phases of the drainage project are areas encompassing the southern extension of Woodland Avenue, the area encompassing Woodland, Betts and Daisey avenues, the area of Woodland and Oakland Avenue.

“Some of the issues [McAllister] brought,” said Gregory, “were certainly good ones, and valid, and were due to a type of development that occurred in which there was very little regulation and not much thought given to these issues. We have a six-year plan ahead of us. Will that solve all of the drainage problems? No, but it will better address and solve the problems of what we have seen in the past. The aim here this evening is to bring these problems to the surface.”

The town will seek approval for the drainage plan at the next council meeting. If approved, public bids could come around in as little as three or four weeks, with construction picking up soon thereafter.