Posted on March 15, 2023
While a specific timeline for the project to begin hasn’t been formalized, details about the long-awaited dredging of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal are beginning to come together.
Beginning at Roosevelt Inlet in Lewes, the 10-mile-long canal connects the Delaware Bay to the Rehoboth Bay. Part of the Intercoastal Waterway, the canal was completed in 1918, and while there’s been spot dredging over the past two decades, the last time it was done in full was 2002.
Using funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Delaware’s congressional delegation announced more than a year ago that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend about $50 million on improvements to Delaware’s ports and waterways. Part of the money, $3.8 million, is slated for maintenance dredging in the canal.
In an email March 8, Katie Grasso, spokesperson for Sen. Tom Carper, said the senator has also recently secured an additional $7.5 million to complete the project, which includes finding a spot for dredge disposal, even if the spoils have to be hauled some distance away.
The project has been discussed recently at a couple of different meetings.
During an Association of Coastal Towns meeting March 2, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Jesse Hayden said the Army Corps of Engineers has funding to dredge the remainder of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal not covered in the original contract, but the problem is where to put the sand.
Possible locations include a restoration project at Thompson Island, degraded wetlands or an upland disposal facility, he said. The project will not begin for at least a year, he said.
Then, during a Rehoboth Beach budget meeting March 6, Mayor Stan Mills added information.
Mills said he was told there’s enough funding to dredge the width of the federal channel – 50 feet – to a depth of 7 feet. The design calls for a depth of 6 feet, but the plan is to aim for 7, he said.
It looks like it will be a reality, but probably not for one-and-a-half to two years, said Mills. Funding has been provided to do the entire canal, but the funds would run out if the material had to be placed too far, he said.
At this point, beginning in Lewes, the dredging will be done in at least two phases.
Steve Rochette, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District spokesperson, said the current contract calls for the dredging of about 40,000 cubic yards of sediment from the canal between Roosevelt Inlet to just south of the Freeman Highway bridge. Sediment will be placed into one or both of the upland dredged material disposal facilities located in Lewes between the canal and Cedar Street, he said.
This dredging work is estimated to begin in fall 2023, and miscellaneous improvements to the upland disposal facilities have already begun, he said.
As for the rest of the canal, Rochette said there have been preliminary discussions with DNREC on the need for placement sites for the remainder of the sediment in the canal between the Freeman Bridge all the way to Rehoboth Bay.
For the Army Corps, one of the key steps necessary to help guide the efforts is to sample and test the sediment in that stretch of the canal to determine the most appropriate methods for dredging and placement, said Rochette. The hope is to be conducting this sampling and testing in summer 2023, he said.
According to a fact sheet published Feb. 22 by the Army Corps, the dredging in its entirety provides for an entrance channel through Roosevelt Inlet in Lewes that’s 10 feet deep, 200 feet wide and protected by two parallel jetties 500 feet apart, and extension of the jetties; a channel 10 feet deep and 100 feet wide to the Savannah Road bridge in Lewes; and a channel 6 feet deep and 50 feet wide to Rehoboth Bay entrance. The project also provides for a channel 6 feet deep and 100 feet wide from Roosevelt Inlet to Broadkill River.