Event Recognizes Delaware’s Ocean Beaches
First in the nation for clean water quality; Nourished beaches protect coastal communities and provide recreational areas
REHOBOTH BEACH (July 3, 2012) – Governor Jack Markell, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, U.S. Representative John Carney, and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara today recognized Delaware’s ocean beaches for receiving the highest national ranking for clean water quality and for recently completed beach nourishment projects. Joining in the ceremony at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach were U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Chris Becking, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, Delaware state legislators and dignitaries from Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, South Bethany and Fenwick Island beaches.
“Clean water quality and nourished ocean beaches are vital to tourism, job growth and Delaware’s economy,” said Gov. Markell. “Delaware’s ranking as first in the country for swimming water quality and our expanded, beautifully-nourished community beaches are continuing to make our coastal resorts national destinations of choice.”
Delaware attracts more than 7 million visitors each year, in large part because of the state’s picturesque Atlantic beaches. According to the report, The Contribution of the Coastal Economy to the State of Delaware, released June 1 by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program at the University of Delaware, the state’s coastal economy has a significant impact on Delaware’s overall economy – generating $6.9 billion annually, including $711 million in tax revenue and supporting 59,000 jobs. Beach tourism provides more than 10 percent of the state’s total employment, taxes, and business production.
“Delaware has some of the best coastline and cleanest beaches in the country, which has remained that way due to the infrastructure put in place,” said Sen. Carper. “The secure dunes, beautiful stretches of sandy beach and regularly tested water keeps Delaware a safe and fun vacation destination – it’s no wonder the First State has some of the best beaches around.”
“Protecting our beautiful coastline is about more than just pumping sand onto the beach; it’s about pumping money into the economy, keeping our beaches healthy, and protecting buildings and infrastructure from coastal storms,” Sen. Coons said. “I am proud to live in a state ranked number one for beach water quality, and I am pleased the Congressional delegation secured funding for beach renourishment through the federal Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010. The Delaware Seashore is a place for families and friends to gather, and we need to continue to invest in keeping our beach communities safe and clean.”
“Every year, thousands of Delawareans, and millions more from across the country, visit Delaware’s beaches. They come to enjoy our pristine shoreline with the highest quality beach water in the nation,” said Rep. Carney. “In the process, they support both the state and local economy. I’m very proud that investments by the federal government and DNREC will help Delaware
preserve its coastline, maintain the cleanest water, and stay a destination area along the Atlantic Coast for many years to come.”
“With Delaware receiving top honors nationally for beach water quality and both Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach being recognized again by NRDC, along with our new beach nourishment projects, Delaware is emerging as the most pristine beach destination in the nation. ” said DNREC Secretary O’Mara. “By serving as stewards of our treasured natural resources, we can
protect this advantage for years to come.”
The event honored Delaware’s beaches for receiving national recognition as the top beaches in the nation for swimming water quality from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the non-partisan international environmental advocacy group founded in 1970. Delaware is ranked 1st out of 30 states for cleanest water quality overall. The report cited that Delaware State Park beaches – Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island – and the state’s Atlantic community beaches – Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, South Bethany, and Fenwick Island – had excellent swimming water quality, with no swimming advisories issued.
Two of the state’s most popular beaches – Rehoboth and Dewey Beach – were awarded 5-star ratings as Superstar beaches for their perfect swimming water quality for the past three years. Each year the NRDC evaluates two of the most popular beaches in each state for consideration of the 5-star rating. As Delaware’s most visited beaches, Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches are the only
beaches in the state evaluated by the NRDC for Superstar Beach status. This marks the second year that Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches were awarded Superstar status.
In their report, “Testing the Waters” released June 27, NRDC also recognized Delaware’s Recreational Water Quality Testing Program as one of the most comprehensive in the nation. The program, which monitors water quality, coastal hazards and other public health and safety concerns from Slaughter Beach to the Delaware/Maryland line, includes a notification system that alerts the public promptly should a swimming advisory or beach closing be necessary. Up-to-date water quality results are posted on DNREC’s website, www.dnrec.delaware.gov and available by calling DNREC’s toll-free, 24-hour “Beach Hotline”
Delaware has received more than $2 million in funding over the past 12 years for Delaware’s Recreational Water Quality Testing Program from the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, which is administered by the EPA.
“Delaware coastal communities are demonstrating leadership in adopting best practices by increasingly using green infrastructure to prevent stormwater runoff from carrying health threatening bacteria to our beach areas,” said EPA Regional Administrator, and native Delawarean Shawn M. Garvin. “These efforts help to ensure that our beaches remain safe and healthy for everyone to enjoy.”
The event also highlighted the more than $35 million in ocean beach nourishment completed in June by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District, DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Section and contractors, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, Inc. and Cottrell Contracting Corp. Beach nourishment protects communities from flooding and coastal storms and
provides recreation areas.
Nourishment projects were initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, following property damage and the erosion of dunes and beaches from several nor’easter storms, including Nor’Ida in 2009. With funding from the U.S. Flood Control and Coastal
Emergency Program, emergency repair work began in 2010. Delaware’s Congressional Delegation secured additional funding through the federal Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control provided the balance of the funds as the non-federal sponsor.
“Our goal for all of our beachfill projects is to reduce damages from storm events,” said Lt. Col. Chris Becking. “The best way to do that is by restoring the beach and dune system. The Corps and our partners have accomplished that for 6 communities along 5 miles of the Delaware coast.”
Nourishment included the placement of 3 million cubic yards of clean sand along community beaches from Lewes to Fenwick Island. The sand was pumped from an offshore borrow area, then bulldozed, graded and built into a dune and berm system designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dunes, which serve as primary buffers for protection, were rebuilt to an average elevation of 15 feet. Depending upon the severity of erosion, community beaches were widened by 75 to 200 feet to protect buildings and infrastructure from flooding and coastal storms and restore beaches for recreational use.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also repaired damaged crossovers in Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany and South Bethany Beaches. DNREC repaired crossovers in Fenwick Island and erected dune fences to protect fragile dune grasses.
Last March, hundreds of volunteers – families, students, and environmental enthusiasts – planted more than 200,000 stems of Cape American beach grass along the newly constructed sand dunes. Beach grass helps to build and stabilize dunes by trapping windblown sand. As the grass traps the sand, it builds the dunes higher and wider, which makes them more protective of the
structures behind them.
In his remarks, Sec. O’Mara thanked the state’s many environmental stewards, including citizens trained by Delaware’s Sea Grant Program at the University of Delaware to monitor the state’s coastal waters, and volunteers who participated in beach grass planting, Delaware’s Coastal Cleanup, the Inland Bays Cleanup and the Adopt-a-Beach Program. Thanks to the dedication of Adopt-a-Beach volunteers, every beach from Lewes to Fenwick Island – 44 sites in all – have been adopted by individuals, families and organizations committed to keeping the beaches clean through regular maintenance and cleanup projects.
More information on Delaware’s Recreational Water Quality Testing Program and Delaware’s Beach Nourishment Program is available on DNREC’s website, www.dnrec.delaware.gov. For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit www.nap.usace.army.mil. The Natural Resources Defense Council report, “Testing the Waters” can be found online at www.nrdc.org.