The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Philadelphia District has signed a feasibility cost sharing agreement with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to initiate a new study for the Delaware Inland Bays.
The agreement, signed by USACE Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Ramon Brigantti and DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin on Nov. 29, 2022, formally kicks off the Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast Coastal Storm Risk Management Study. The cost sharing agreement is for $2 million and is expected to take three years (Nov. 28, 2025).
For over four years, Bethany Beach Council and Staff, as members of the Association of Coastal Towns, among others, have worked closely with DNREC, the USACE, the Governor, federal, state and local legislators to encourage the agencies to consummate this agreement, which is so vital to the future, not only of Bethany Beach, but of all Delawareans.
Following Hurricane Sandy, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 directed the Secretary of the Army to conduct a comprehensive study to address the flood risks of vulnerable coastal populations in areas that were affected by the hurricane within the boundaries of the North Atlantic Division of the Corps. The study area included New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. With that direction, the Corps developed the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS).
The NACCS is a multi-phase process. In the first phase, in its Resilient Adaptation to Increasing Risk Final Report (January 2015), the Corps identified nine high-risk areas in the named states for further in-depth analysis and recommendations. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) participated in the initial phase. (See attached list of areas identified for study in Delaware.)
The study area includes the Delaware Inland Bays (the set of interconnected bodies of water that are separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a spit of land) and the Delaware Bay coastline in the State of Delaware in New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties. The Inland Bays coastline area is approximately 77 square miles, and the Delaware Bay coastline is approximately 145 square miles.
The Corps then invited the states to participate, on a cost-sharing basis, in the next phase. That would involve the conduct of feasibility studies by the Corps to identify strategies and measures each state could take to reduce its specific flood risks and protect people, property, and natural and cultural resources.
The study will include the development of project-specific plans that could be promptly implemented with Congressional or other funding before or in the event of another Sandy-type coastal storm.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, a meeting will be held within the first several months of the study, to present the scope of the study and to solicit initial comments from the public, agencies, and stakeholders.
Loop Canal Retractable Dam
The DNREC/USACE study is separate from the retractable steel dam that the Town of Bethany Beach has been studying for a number of years to address the flooding from the Loop Canal. A dam at the confluence of the Loop and Assawoman would eliminate so-called “nuisance” flooding that occurs about 10% of the year in the areas north of Garfield Parkway and Route 26. In February 2022, the Town entered into a 30% design study with McCormick Taylor. The study includes survey, geotechnical exploration, environmental assessment, initiation of the environmental permitting process, and type, size and location plans for the dam and its substructure. We’re expecting the results of that study in the next one to two months.
The Town will continue to update the status of the 30% steel dam study and next steps as well as the DNREC/USACE study.