Public should be heard on plans for inlet beaches
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already requested bids on a project to dredge sand from Indian River Inlet to replenish the shoreline north of the inlet. A wider beach is the best protection for the $150 million Indian River Inlet bridge – a span that has already been closed twice when storm-driven sand piled up on the northside approach.
Neither the Department of Natural Resources nor the Department of Transportation has taken responsibility for building a bridge that is one storm away from being a bridge no one can get to, but one thing is clear: Widening the beach and rebuilding the dune is an urgent necessity. Still, urgency is no excuse for putting the project out to bid before the public had a chance to study the plans and offer comment. As Cape Region residents well know, the corps and DNREC have already demonstrated a notable lack of competence when contractors were allowed to dump sand laced with millions of stones on the beaches in Rehoboth and Dewey, producing a steep beach and fast-breaking waves. A more recent replenishment using finer sand improved the shore break, but Delaware Surfrider Chapter is taking no chances. They want to ensure sand dredged at Indian River Inlet will match sand already on the beach to create a gradually sloping beach and preserve the waves that have made Indian River one of the East Coast’s best surfing locations. While the corps is looking for the right sand, corps officials might also ask whatever happened to the northside jetty, which once extended as far out into the ocean as the south jetty. Today, the north jetty extends barely as far as the southside beach; without significant work to solidify the jetty, it is likely sand used to widen the beach will wash through the rocks and back into the inlet.
The public really doesn’t know what the corps plans to do, how its plans will protect fish and wildlife or promote the waves that have made the inlet a destination.
Public understanding and questioning of these plans can only improve them. The public may not have all the answers, but it won’t do any worse than the agencies responsible for building a bridge that has been under threat nearly since the day it opened. The Surfriders plan to meet with DNREC officials at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Lewes Public Library to gather information on this project.