On Wednesday, December 2, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) presented the results of an engineering study determined to help chronic drainage problems in bay area beach towns. Ten projects were identified as priority for the agency in order to address road flooding that occurs during almost every rainstorm.
“This is one of the best engineering studies I have read related to beach drainage,” said Senator Gary Simpson. “This is a start and there is a lot more that needs to be done. These corrections will not happen overnight, even though we all wish they would. This is a beginning that will help address flooding issues that have become a significant problem to area residents.”
Of the ten projects, six of them are in the Milford area. Slaughter and Broadkill Beach each were identified for one project in each location while Prime Hook was identified as needing three projects completed to address drainage. One area that suffers flooding often, South Bowers Beach, was not included in the ten priority projects identified by DNREC.
“What we did is prioritize the projects based on several factors, including public safety, single egress and ingress, frequency of flooding, environmental impact, agricultural impact and cost,” said Brooks Cahall , Drainage Program Manager for DNREC. “In South Bowers, the only solution to resolve draining problems is to raise the road. This is not something DNREC can do, so we have turned that project over to DelDOT.”
In Slaughter Beach, DNREC plans to regrade the pavement as well as construct and add roadside swales in an effort to improve drainage at a cost of $147,082. Prime Hook will see additional storm drains and catch basins installed as well as improvements on Shore Drive at a cost of $94,148. The three projects in Broadkill include new drainage inlets and changes similar to those planned for Slaughter Beach. The cost for all three projects in Broadkill total $102,787.
Funding for final engineering for the projects has already been secured and Senator Simpson said that he believed funding for all of the projects would be established in the 2016-17 budget so that construction could begin in 2017. Several members of the audience were concerned that South Bowers was not included in the priority list, saying that the road flooded every day, even when the bay waters were low. There were suggestions that the state consider digging out former “mosquito ditches” that were originally designed to lower the mosquito population in the area.
“We are looking into cleaning out those ditches,” Mr. Cahall said. “However, we don’t want to dig the ditches out only to discover that doing so made the problem worse. In addition, there are significant steps that must be taken to dig out those ditches. We also want to make it clear that these are just the first ten projects we have identified as being top priorities. That does not mean we are ignoring the issues faced in other beach towns, just that these projects fit our criteria for repair immediately.”
Mr. Cahall also explained that there was currently work being done in Prime Hook through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department to repair breeches and other issues that led to major flooding in the area. Those repairs were not being conducted by the state and had no bearing on the proposed projects in the most recent report.
“These projects are designed to address localized flooding that occurs during typical rainstorms and at high tides in these locations,” Mr. Cahall said. “It will not address major hurricanes or other storms that cause flooding as there really isn’t much that can be done to guarantee no flooding in beach towns during those types of weather events.”
Mr. Cahall said that once all approvals and permits are finalized, the projects should take approximately six months to complete. He said it was impossible to say when the projects would be completed as he was unsure when they would actually begin as they needed to wait for funding and permits.
“Gary and I were very clear throughout this process that we wanted the agricultural impact of any project considered,” Representative Harvey Kenton said. “In most of these areas, there isn’t really a lot of agricultural land that could be affected by these projects, except in the Slaughter Beach area. In a major flood, agricultural land could very well be affected if we don’t address some of the smaller flooding problems.”
Some of the projects identified in the report were issues that homeowners themselves must correct and Mr. Cahall said that DNREC would work with those homeowners to repair the problems to improve area drainage. The entire report and recommendations are available at the DNREC website or by calling DNREC at 302-855-1930. More information is also available by emailing Mr. Cahall at email@example.com or Stephen Wright, PE Engineer at DNREC, at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.