Posted on January 15, 2024
For the better part of two decades, Delaware communities along the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay have not had to pay for the regular beach replenishment projects that have taken place. That could soon change.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental control has commissioned a study to explore the economic benefits of beach nourishment and to begin to develop new approaches to funding projects needed to maintain Delaware’s shorelines. There will be a virtual public workshop to discuss the topic at 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18.
“Due to rising demands and costs associated with beach nourishment, in the future DNREC will likely struggle to be able to sustain the current level of beach nourishment at current levels of funding,” reads a notice announcing the workshop.
DNREC officials did not respond to questions further explaining the need for a change in funding. According to the notice available on DNREC’s public meeting portal, beach nourishment, designed to reduce storm damage to infrastructure, has been happening in Delaware along the ocean and Delaware Bay beaches since the 1950s.
However, the projects have gotten much larger in scope over the past 15 years. Since 2009, there have been half a dozen large-scale nourishment projects in Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island.
The cost of these large-scale projects has been split between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNREC – 65% federal, 35% state. Between all the communities, the replenishment project during the summer of 2023 cost about $29 million.
Currently, DNREC’s portion of the funding comes in two forms – an eighth of the state’s accommodations tax is earmarked for the projects, and the Delaware General Assembly appropriates funds.
The commissioned study will examine how the benefits of beach nourishment are distributed and develop cost-share ratios based on these benefits.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills briefly discussed the topic during a commissioner workshop Jan. 8. The notice appears to be code for seeking additional revenue from municipalities, Mills said. If Rehoboth needs to seek additional funding, it will have to come from somewhere, he said, encouraging all the commissioners and residents of Rehoboth to listen to DNREC’s meeting.
Mills said the Association of Coastal Towns – a group of mayors from Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Henlopen Acres, Lewes and Fenwick Island – has been discussing the issue and is formulating an opinion.
If the state were to shift some of the funding to local municipalities, it wouldn’t be the only one.
Steve Rochette, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman for the Philadelphia District office, said the district oversees coastal projects in New Jersey and Delaware.
In New Jersey, said Rochette, the state typically splits the non-federal share 75% state and 25% local. Overall, that breaks down to 65% federal, 26.25% state, and 8.75% local.
The Army Corps does not set the cost-sharing ratios between federal and state agencies. Those ratios are determined by congressional authorizations, said Rochette.
The virtual meeting is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18. For more information, contact Sarah Bouboulis of the DNREC Shoreline and Waterway Management Section at 302-739-9921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.