Community Reacts to Decision to Not Replenish Bethany Beach Area - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Community Reacts to Decision to Not Replenish Bethany Beach Area

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Walkway to nowhere. Before the January storm, this lead to the top of a dune, which has now been washed away into the sandbar (Source: Amber Muehlemann) Walkway to nowhere. Before the January storm, this lead to the top of a dune, which has now been washed away into the sandbar (Source: Amber Muehlemann)
Dunes have been chipped away in Bethany Beach (Source: Amber Muehlemann) Dunes have been chipped away in Bethany Beach (Source: Amber Muehlemann)

BETHANY BEACH, Del. - Frank Vigna, of Bethany Beach, said he was blindsided by WBOC's report on Wednesday night that announced that his community would not receive replenishment in this year's work plan. 

"We couldn't believe it," he said. "We were astonished." 

The announcement was made by the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this week. Gene Pawlik, from the Army Corps' Public Affairs office, could not offer specific reasons for the decision, but said there are two possible explanations. 

"(It) either did not rank highly enough," he said. "In the FY 2016 work plans formulation to be included in the available funding this fiscal year or did not meet the criteria to be included in the work plans funding."

Pawliks' full statement can be found below. 

The decision has created a great deal of disappointment among people in town, including Vigna. 

"The tourist industry is going to be devastated," he said. "If they don't do something about the dunes." 

Tony Pratt, beach specialist for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources Environmental Control, said Wednesday that it could now be a year-and-a-half before any nourishment comes to the community in need. 

"We are in a very vulnerable situation there," he said. "I expect as a practitioner that we're going to see the complete loss of dune down there. And they're going to start all over from scratch in at least Bethany Beach. And I don't know how much of South Bethany will be left. It's a bad situation."

Pratt told WBOC he was "perplexed" by the Corps' decision. This is a feeling echoed by many businesses in town, including Steen's Beach Service, which provides beach umbrellas during the summer. 

"We, Steen's Beach Service," said Paige Steen in a statement. "Are very disappointed that the US Army Corps of Engineers won't provide beach re-nourishment to Bethany Beach and the other southern beaches in Delaware."

Steen went on to say that the area is vulnerable, adding that even a 20-mile-per-hour wind from the east would "push waves and ocean back to the boardwalk, flooding the beach."

The full statement from the Steen family can be seen below.

Similarly, John Burbage from the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Hotel, told WBOC that he was concerned by the decision. Burbage said that he has already reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers, to look for a solution. 

The concern was apparent in South Bethany as well, where damage from January's storm was widespread. Councilman Frank Weisgerber said he worries about future storms. 

"Traditionally we get a northeast storm," he said. "If we get lucky, we only get one. This year we had two of them. And you can see the effect. The first one protected us. The second one hit. And the dunes were breached to the point where we’re concerned about next fall when the next northeast storm comes through again.” 

Weisgerber said homes are currently at risk. 

"There's 1,400 properties," he said. "And they're all vulnerable now." 

Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Gordon shared a concern for the decision, calling it "worrisome."

"It's extremely disappointing," he said. "And we're just hoping that the weather is not bad as far as having nor'easters. For now, there is nothing the town can do but continue to talk to appropriate people."

Social Media Response: 

In response to WBOC's posting of the announcement on Wednesday, many at home responded negatively to replenishment as a whole, calling it a waste of time and money. 

"You guys do realize that beaches aren't supposed to be replenished," wrote Kate Howard. "They aren't supposed to be made to fight hurricanes or other natural disasters. Mother Nature will always take its course and will always destroy anything man made to withstand he storms. It's a huge waste of money to constantly replenish when you need to just stop building homes where homes aren't supposed to be."

"It's a losing battle," said Kim Kisner. "And a waste of money. Our money......."

"Let homeowners on oceanfront pay," said Peggy West.

Others came to the defense of the program. 

"This is not about the folks with property from the Inlet to Bethany Beach," said Bill Roebuck. "This is about the town itself and especially the small business people of Bethany Beach, Ocean View, Millville, every one of them from Bethany to Fenwick to Dagsboro who depends on those 3-4 months to make their living. This ain't Assateague Jason. We already have one of those."

Others looked for a new solution. 

"It's time for the state of Delaware to buy or build its own dredge," wrote David Lynam. "We have a pump now on the south side of Indian river inlet put it on a barge add two more. When we have bad weather you retreat to the Safety of the inlet.

Pawlik's Full Statement: 

"To provide the best response that I can at this time, the shore protection projects that you inquired about either did not rank highly enough in the FY 2016 work plans formulation to be included in the available funding this fiscal year or did not meet the criteria to be included in the work plans funding.  With respect to funding in FY 2017, we cannot comment on whether those projects will or will not be included for funding as we cannot speculate on how Congress will fund the agency next year or on what the funding priorities will be."

Steen's Full Statement: 

"We, Steen's Beach Service, are very disappointed that the US Army Corps of Engineers won't provide beach renourishment to Bethany Beach and the other southern beaches in Delaware. The beach has been made even more vulnerable by this season's storms.  With the loss of most of the dune, installed in 2005,  the beach is lower in height and width than it has been in years. Without building up the beach, even a 20 mile per hour wind from the east ( southeast, east and northeast) will push waves and ocean back to the boardwalk, flooding the beach and making it impossible for visitors and beach service to use the beach.  Even when the ocean behaves, our beach equipment and storage sheds will be subject to flooding. Removal of equipment and sheds will likely be more frequent. 

We encourage the State and towns to continue pushing sand from the low water point to the back of the beach so that the ocean can naturally build up the height and, hopefully, the width of the beach. This would come from sand already paid for by past beach replenishments and which is sitting 50 yards offshore. This will cover the jetties and provide a safer beach for visitors, lifeguards and beach service.   This is probably the cheapest sand we will be able to get!"

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