Beach construction project nears finish

An initial delay of several weeks on the start of Fenwick Island’s beach reconstruction project may have worked to the town’s favor. Sand lost in the recent nor’easter might just get put back in place before the project is complete.

According to Public Works Supervisor Neil Hanrahan, engineers from dredging company Bean Stuyvesant plan to perform a loss analysis to see exactly how much was lost from the seaside berm they’ve been creating for the last two months. If the loss is significant, they may perform additional replenishment to set it back to rights.

Hanrahan noted at the town’s monthly council meeting Oct. 28 that the storm had had only a mild effect on the newly constructed westward dunes, costing them some height as the sand was blown inland or cast onto the beach. He deemed the dunes to be in good shape, despite that shift.

As of Oct. 28, Bean Stuyvesant had completed an estimated 2,500 linear feet of their reconstruction work, running from Lewes Street to Dagsboro Street. An additional 1,000 linear feet of beachfront in the state park area to the north has also been replenished with sand. (The project’s August start was delayed several weeks to allow completion of another project the company was working on at the time.)

As of this week, the company was working on the unincorporated area to the south of Fenwick Island, having moved the dredging pipe into that area last week. Hanrahan said they will be pumping the sand toward the south, tapering the replenished area into neighboring Ocean City, Md.

Once that area is completed, they will pump toward the north again, completing the reconstruction of the beach between the state line and Dagsboro Street. Estimated to take another four to five weeks, depending on weather, that last stretch will complete the dredging phase of the town’s so-called “50-year” reconstruction project.

The landscaping phase of the project has already begun, starting at Lewes Street. The landscaping phase includes creation of walkways, dune crossovers and fencing, with the planting of dune-stabilizing grasses set to start in December.

The later period is designed to take advantage of cooler temperatures that help the grasses get established. Planting is expected to be completed in February.

Still somewhat up in the air are the town’s plans for hardscaping at the beach entrances. Council Member Harry Haon said Mayor Peter Frederick (recuperating from surgery and absent from the Oct. 28 meeting) had recently gotten a verbal go-ahead for the town’s idea to add handrails and benches at the dune crossovers.

Haon noted that the town had approached the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Controls (DNREC) in April about the project and received a non-committal response. (The town needs DNREC’s permission to do the work, since it oversees the beaches.) The project concept was put off for later consideration at that time.

With DNREC having now given its permission for the project, the town will take over, determining exactly how the project will be carried out and how it will be paid for. The project will be funded at the town’s expense.

Haon said Hanrahan had been working on a development proposal for the project and expected to have it in time for the council’s November meeting.

There’s a hitch to that timing, however. If the town wishes to coordinate the handrail installation with installation of the dune fencing by the selected contractor, it might need to act before that Nov. 18 (moved up due to Thanksgiving) meeting, Haon explained.

He noted that the council might therefore need to make a decision on the project by Nov. 7.

Finally, another possible component of the overall beach reconstruction project is consideration of potential new signage. Haon said the consensus was that the existing signage spelling out restrictions on seasonal beach use (such as no dogs) was overly negative and made too much use of the word “No.”

The town will therefore consider new signs that will aim to put the town’s messages in a more positive, more “persuasive” way, he said.

Consideration of the signage for the beach is also happening in conjunction with consideration of general signage in the town.

After its previous experience in bringing the town park into reality, the Parks and Recreation Committee has been looking into new signage, aiming for something more aesthetically pleasing, Haon said. He said the committee might have some concrete ideas on the subject at its next meeting.