City of Rehoboth Beach Receives Update on Ocean Outfall Budget - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

City of Rehoboth Beach Receives Update on Ocean Outfall Budget

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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - The City of Rehoboth Beach has some new numbers on the controversial ocean outfall project.

According to a presentation at Wednesday morning's commissioners workshop, the outfall itself is expected to cost $27.6 million-- four million dollars more than the city was hoping for. 

"Obviously the ocean outfall is a very complex project. Only a few contractors can do that work and there's a huge risk involved working in the ocean, it's how they price that," says Mayor Sam Cooper. "It wasn't totally unexpected but obviously not welcomed."

But Wednesday's update came with positive information as well. According to engineers, the entire wastewater upgrade project--which includes a force main, effluent pump and improvements to the current wastewater treatment plant--is budgeted to  cost $43.2 million, which is $9 million under budget. What's more, the projected $43.2 million also includes administrative costs and a five percent contingency in place for each project. Cooper says having a new budget allows them to start allocating funds and staying on schedule.

"We had the consent order signed in 2002--it gives us a deadline of June 1, 2018 [to stop pumping treated wastewater into the canal]," Cooper says. "There's no reason we should miss that at this point."

Although the outfall is moving full speed ahead, some environmentalists are still concerned about the impact it will have. Suzanne Thurman, Executive Director of the MERR Institute, has filed an individual appeal against the outfall. She says even treated wastewater has chemicals that can hurt marine life.

"There are a lot of red flags, a lot of concerns and we really just had hoped from the leaders in our community that they would be more conscientious about environmental stewardship and responsibility," Thurman says.

Thurman says at the very least she hopes her appeal will change how the work is done.

"For example, work stoppages when extremely endangered right whales are out there and seals are out there," she explains. "That would cause the city of Rehoboth and DNREC and any contractors to be in compliance with existing marine mammal protection act laws and others." 

Cooper has said in the past any work will be in compliance with all laws. Wednesday's meeting also served as an opportunity for the City of Rehoboth Beach and Sussex County representatives to discuss their wastewater partnership, which Cooper says will benefit both parties.

"Almost as important was to go over the proposed agreement with Sussex County creating a partnership with the city and the county for wastewater services," he says. "Both us treating their wastewater and them accepting our sludge and drying it for us. It's a big milestone."

The City of Rehoboth Beach commissioners are set to vote on that agreement on August 7th, with the Sussex County Council likely to vote the following day, August 8th. Cooper anticipates the commissioners will vote to award the outfall bids within the month of August as well. 

 

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