INDIAN RIVER INLET, Del. - A new dune system near the Indian River Inlet is part of a proposed plan to protect the highway and nearby bridge, according to a state official.
The north side of the inlet and Lewes beach suffered the most severe beach erosion following Hurricane Sandy, said Tony Pratt, shoreline administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. State and federal officials toured those areas on Thursday.
Pratt said he asked the Army Corps of Engineers to consider a "beach and dune" system for the inlet area similar to the current setup in resort towns across Sussex County, noting most of those oceanfront communities survived the storm without major damage.
The new inlet bridge was not damaged during the storm, but the old dune saw Sandy's wrath. The sand barrier was eroded and scattered across Route 1, forcing crews to close the highway for nearly a week as they cleaned up the mess.
A special pump called the sand bypass is back up and running, moving sand through a pipe to the north side of the inlet. But Pratt said even that may not be enough to restore the beach to its previous condition.
Adding to concerns, Delaware may have to wait before receiving federal assistance. The Army Corps is still assessing the damage in Delaware and New Jersey before deciding its next step, said spokesman Steve Rochette. Both states are part of the agency's Philadelphia office; Pratt said the heavy damage in New Jersey is keeping the Army Corps staff busy.
"We're doing the best we can with the people we have in place but because we're tied into the New Jersey problem, things are not moving as quickly as anybody would like," Pratt said.
As for Lewes Beach, some homeowners called the dune erosion among the worst they have seen in decades.
"Unless the state does something - or the feds - about replenishing the sand on the beach here, our homes are seriously threatened," said Lewes beach homeowner Dennis Reardon.
Pratt said the state hopes to begin trucking sand into Lewes to bolster damaged dunes by the end of the month.
"We'd rather put material in front of that to keep it from any further collapse," Pratt said.
The state said the amount of sand lost in both areas and the cost of repairs is still unclear because numbers have not been finalized. Pratt said the state is working with the Army Corps to expedite the permit process.
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