Read Avenue residents say flooding must be fixedEngineer proposes solution for drainage in Dewey
Dewey Beach — Residents of Dewey Beach have long battled high tides and rainstorms that have flooded bayside streets for as long as the town has existed.
In recent years, town officials have taken steps to improve drainage in the lowest-lying areas. Now, some town officials are pulling the reins on future drainage repair projects they say the town cannot afford.
A $900,000 project to reduce flooding on Bayard Avenue was completed by Mike Cotten, proprietor of Cotten Engineering, in 2011. “It’s gone through a couple of hurricanes, not missing a lick,” Cotten said.
Residents say Read Avenue is the new low-point on the bayside of town. Cotten proposed a $6,000 project for Read Avenue that would reduce flooding during high tides or heavy rains.
Cotten said the project is part of a proposed master plan to address stormwater drainage on the bayside of town. “There’s two choices: Lower the bay or raise Dewey Beach,” Cotten said.
A handful of Read Avenue residents attended a Feb. 9 town council meeting, including Albert Genemans, who is also an infrastructure committee member. “It needs to be done right now,” he said.
Read Avenue resident Dan Messina, who attended the meeting in knee-high rubber boots, said he had to wade through water to leave his house that morning.
Cotten’s proposal for Read Avenue would look like a smaller version of the Bayard Avenue project, he said. The engineering firm would install a tide gate, a small set of electric pumps and a berm. Cotten said he would also plug leaks in the existing piping system, which is 50 years old.
The electric pumps would process about 300 gallons of water per minute, Cotten said; the pumping system on Bayard processes 5,000 gallons per minute. “The price goes up accordingly,” he said.
The stormwater master plan, which Cotten said is 25 percent complete, is expected to call for two more small sets of pumps at different locations on Read Avenue. Together, the pumps could handle a 100-year storm, he said.
According to the stormwater master plan, an island to be constructed in the middle of the road would draw parking away from the sides of the road, where a sidewalk could be installed. The center island would also serve as a biofiltration area, Cotten said. “That is where the interim fix is leading to,” he said.
Infrastructure committee member Mike Harmer asked town council to allow Cotten to apply for a nonbinding state grant that would pay half the cost of designing the project. He said Cotten agreed to complete the application free of charge. If the town receives the grant, the infrastructure committee and Cotten would return to council and ask that the project be approved, Harmer said.
Mayor Diane Hanson said council should allow Cotten to apply for the grant. “We can’t lose,” she said. “We’re not committing money at this point,” she said. “I don’t see the downside.”
Harmer said the deadline to apply for the grant is Thursday, Feb. 28.
“I’d hate to lose that opportunity,” said Commissioner Joy Howell.
Commissioner Courtney Riordan said he was afraid the town was inching towards taking responsibility for all Dewey Beach’s drainage problems. He said the town is still paying off debt for the Bayard Avenue project. “You call this an interim solution,” Riordan said. “What does that anticipate in terms of a long-term solution, and who’s going to pay for it?” he asked.
Riordan said he was pessimistic the town could receive grant money because state and federal budgets are tight. “Be realistic,” he said.
Commissioner Anna Legates said the town agreed to fund Bayard Avenue drainage repairs before it had a way to fully fund the project. “This council moves too fast,” Legates said. “We’ve got to slow down the train and do our homework.”
“I’ve been through all the storms since ‘81,” she said. “I’ve seen it worse.”
Legates said she wanted Town Manager Marc Appelbaum to review the grant application before allowing Cotten to submit it to the state. “To vote on a grant application we haven’t seen is reckless,” she said.
Property owner and former budget and finance committee chairman David King said, “I see a lot of downside in moving forward with a grant application that has a 50 percent match.” He said the town might not have the funds to match the grant if it were awarded.
King said the town is still paying off debt for the Bayard Avenue project, where drains are regularly blocked by debris and garbage gets into the pumping station. “I can’t see this town spending more money on infrastructure when we don’t take care of the infrastructure we have,” he said.
Hanson said Appelbaum would review the grant application and decide whether to allow Cotten to apply.