Work continues on clearing stormwater outfall pipes

Corps still working on Rehoboth outfall clearings

By Ryan Mavity

Cape Gazette July 31, 2012

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The United States Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its work trying to keep stormwater outfall pipes in Rehoboth Beach clear, although when they are do­ing it may not be up everyone’s alley.

An excavator has been on call since the end of February’s beach replenishment project. At that time, stormwater outfall pipes at five locations – Rehoboth, Vir­ginia, Delaware and Maryland avenues, as well as Laurel Street – were singled out after too much sand from the beach re­plenishment filled the pipes.

Rehoboth resident Joe Hill raised concerns to city officials about safety issues when the ex­cavator made its way through a crowded Sunday afternoon beach day. Hill snapped pictures of the excavator trudging through the sand. He said he did not mind the corps working, but was concerned with beachgoers' safety.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the corps, said, “We have to clear the pipes at low tide during day­light when the pipes are visible, particularly when there is a pos­sibility for rain. That has essen­tially dictated the schedule. Safe­ty is a concern, and we're making sure spotters accompany the ex­cavator along the beach.”

Rochette said the corps would continue to keep the pipes clear at low tide.

City Manager Greg Ferrese said the city, via the Rehoboth Beach Patrol, has been assisting in crowd control when the exca­vator is run during the day. Fer­rese said while he does not like the excavator running during the day, there’s not much the city can do.

“We have to keep those out­falls open. If they’re not cleaned out, they will back up,” he said.

Ferrese said there have been a few instances when the outfall pipes did back up and cause flooding. In late-May early-June, flooding caused water to come up on the curb in front of Grotto Pizza, Ferrese said. In April, the basement of the Bandstand expe­rienced minor flooding.

Rochette said the corps had a complaint over a weekend in June of flooding at Laurel Street, although he has not heard any­thing since.

“We've tried to avoid work on weekends because of the large crowds. But anytime there is rain, there's a potential for some flooding if we don't keep the out­falls cleared,” he said.

Originally, the plan was to put temporary extensions on the pipes, but according to Rochette, wave action knocked the exten­sions out of place. When sand eroded enough at Virginia and Maryland avenues, the plan was downsized to just put extensions 

at Laurel Street and Rehoboth and Delaware avenues. Howev­er, the corps again revised the plan to allow the sand filling the pipes to erode naturally and be cleaned on an as-needed basis.

However, the sand has not ex­actly been cooperating.

Rochette said, “Because the coast hasn't experienced many storms since we completed the renourishment, the sand has not eroded back as quickly as ex­pected.”

He said when the summer sea­son ends, the corps plans to work with Department of Natur­al Resources and Environmental Control to see if a permanent fix like outfall extensions is neces­sary.

Rochette said a permanent fix would not be possible during the busy summer season, so the corps is waiting and performing maintenance as needed.