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Partnership Eyed For Fenwick Dredging Project

Fenwick Island (Photo Courtesy - Wikipedia)

Posted on December 8, 2021

FENWICK ISLAND – A new partnership could allow a dredging project in Fenwick Island to move forward.

Last Thursday, the Fenwick Island Dredging Committee convened to discuss the next steps in pursuing a partnership with Seatowne, a private community north of Fenwick Island.

Officials say the idea is to use dredged materials from a town-led dredging project of the Little Assawoman Bay to replenish the community’s beachhead.

“It is definitely different from our previous thought of what we thought our project was going to be …,” said Councilman Bill Rymer, committee chair. “It’s a more significant project, and there’s a whole lot of things that have to happen before we get into permitting.”

Plans for a dredging project in the Little Assawoman Bay began in earnest in 2018, when the town council hired Tony Pratt, former administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), to guide them through the funding and permitting processes. By the following year, Anchor QEA, a Lewes-based engineering firm, was brought on board to provide design, bidding and construction managements services.

Simply put, the dredging project is expected to address shoaling in the back-bay system and connect boating channels along Fenwick’s bayside canals to the main channel in the Little Assawoman Bay. As part of that effort, roughly 19,000 cubic feet of dredged material would be moved to another site for reuse.

Since 2019, the town has worked with Carl M. Freeman Companies to relocate the material to one of its properties, making the public-private partnership one that would save the town millions of dollars. In September, however, officials announced the Freeman Companies had decided to accelerate its project timeline for the identified spoil site – a parcel of land off Route 54 that had been approved for a 70-lot subdivision. To that end, officials began to explore an adjacent 9.2-acre parcel owned by the developer. Those plans were also taken off the table in October when the county’s denial of a hotel project on the site forced the developer to reevaluate its project, as well as its partnership with the town.

“They were very clear in their stance that they just can’t commit to us,” Rymer said at the time. “So now it’s on our watch to identify other options for the next phase of our dredging project.”

Back on the agenda last week, committee members discussed proposed locations for placing the dredged materials, including Seal Island. But officials ultimately concluded a project with Seatowne would be the most beneficial location.

“It seems to be the most favorable way forward, but it helps to have alternative sites for this project …,” Pratt said. “We go with Seatowne until we can’t, and if we can’t we go with other options.”

Rymer noted Anchor QEA would come before the committee next month with proposals for a feasibility study and conceptual design. Once completed, he said, the town could work toward a joint permit application.

“We still have to have our [archeological] survey and sediment testing cleared before we do anything …,” he added. “We need to make sure our house, our dredging channels, are in order and acceptable.”

Anchor QEA’s Steve Bagnull noted that while a laboratory is currently analyzing the results of the sediment study, there have been some initial findings from the archeological study.

“There was one anomaly detected in the southern channel, and we are waiting for feedback as to if there needs to be any additional investigation or mitigation …,” he said. “At this point we are awaiting a report … All I know is that it’s not large.”

Following a lengthy meeting last week, committee members tasked the town’s dredging consultants with developing a new timeline for the project, as well as cost estimates for placing the dredged material at Seatowne.

“Obviously, our goal is to be successful in getting this project done,” Rymer said.


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