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Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and Dewey Beach partner to alleviate stormwater problems

Supplied by Katie Goerger
Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
An example of how stormwater can soak into the ground.

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and Dewey Beach are trying to reduce flooding in the town and clean up pollution in Rehoboth Bay by addressing stormwater runoff.

They’re working together to build a living shoreline – a seawall made of plants – for Read Ave., which is prone to flooding.

Dewey Beach Commissioner Dale Cooke says the town has a problem with flooding and Read Avenue has seen the worst of it.

“We have not only flooding from sea level rise and the high tides and the bay, but we have drainage problems that come from the east to the west towards the bay,” Cooke said. 

Dewey Beach isn’t the only town experiencing problems with flooding and sea level rise, said Marianne Walch, the science and restoration coordinator for the Center for the Inland Bays.

“As the towns and communities become more developed, we get larger amounts of impervious cover, which means surfaces such as pavement and rooftops that don’t allow stormwater runoff to soak into the ground,” Walch said.

Besides flooding streets, stormwater runoff has also caused some problems in Rehoboth Bay. Chris Bason, the director of the Center for the Inland Bays, said the runoff contains nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which are polluting sources in the Inland Bays.

“And when that goes into the bay it causes it algae blooms, it reduces dissolved oxygen levels and it eliminates certain habitat in the bay for diversity of animal life,” Bason said.

The nonprofit and the city have proposed a stormwater retrofit project at an area of Route 1 that drains into Read Ave. This includes creating a bioretention facility, or “rain garden,” that will capture stormwater runoff and help alleviate flooding. The facility will allow the stormwater to slowly soak into the ground, so it doesn’t go into Rehoboth Bay.

Walch said the Center for the Inland Bays applied for a nearly $60,000 grant for the stormwater retrofit project on Route 1, which would be matched by $60,000 from the Delaware Department of Transportation and $25,000 from Dewey. They’re waiting to see if the grant gets awarded.

The living shoreline project is estimated to cost about $175,000. The center acquired a $75,000 Community Water Quality Improvement Grant from the state. Dewey Beach and the Delaware Department of Transportation are covering the rest of the cost.

The town’s stormwater master plan identifies over 40 projects to handle stormwater, at an estimated cost between $10-$15 million dollars.