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Officials working to restore Delaware beaches after severe Nor'easter damage

Erosion in South Bethany
Erosion at Dewey Beach
Erosion in South Bethany
Storm erosion and dune fence damage in Rehoboth Beach
Posted at 5:38 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 17:43:56-04

Many Marylanders are getting ready to hit the beaches Memorial Day weekend, including the Delaware beaches - and Delaware officials say they're working hard to repair those coastlines after severe damage from a recent Nor'easter.

Cleanup and restoration work began today in Rehoboth Beach, reported the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Jesse Hayden, administrator of the department's Shoreline and Waterway Section, said in an earlier press release:

The long duration of the storm and the post-storm wind direction mean we may not see a rapid natural rebuilding of the beach. The dunes did their job protecting our communities from being inundated, but by absorbing the impact of the storm they suffered damage that affects people’s ability to access the beach. Our immediate goal is restore as much safe beach access in as many communities as possible so that beachgoers can enjoy a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

The storm, over Mother's Day weekend, devastated Delaware's popular beaches. Bethany Beach was the hardest hit. The town posted drone footage of the damage to the coastline, with the water nearly reaching the fences in some places.

(Ocean City's city manager, meanwhile, told Ocean City Today that the town was not seriously affected, due to an ongoing beach replenishment project. The federal government spent more than $15.7 million over the past year to replenish the Ocean City coast.)

In Rehoboth Beach, about four of the city's 38 dune crossings remained closed as of May 20, all of them on the north end of the beach, according to the city's website.

Visitors reported on Facebook a 6-foot drop from the jetty and comments from local officials that it was the worst they've seen in more than a decade.

The city posted May 20:

The entire stretch of Rehoboth Beach is open and ready to welcome visitors. However, over Mother's Day weekend and lingering into the following week, Rehoboth Beach was hit by a nor'easter and persistent high winds and tides. Thankfully, our dunes did their job and protected the boardwalk and property, but several of our dune crossings were damaged and escarpments [steep slopes] created.

DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti said today that grading of South Bethany's beach access points - "where the worst erosion occurred" - was finished last week. The town and DNREC are now working to create a handicap-accessible entry point with a handrail.

Globetti said the state expects to have almost all access points on the ocean coast graded before Memorial Day Weekend.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper from Delaware, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, notes he's working to get the federal government to pay 90 percent of the Bay Beach nourishment project and reorient the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "to proactively address climate change and streamline the implementation of shoreline protection and restoration projects."