Bad weather this month delayed construction for Rehoboth Beach’s ocean outfall pipe to the point where crews will not be finished by a key permit deadline set by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps of Engineers granted an extension on the City of Rehoboth Beach’s outfall permit that allows Manson Construction to work past the March 31 deadline to finish their work in the ocean on a pipe that will discharge treated wastewater into the Atlantic.
Rehoboth Beach spokeswoman Krys Johnson said they’ll work “until it’s finished.”
“At this time, Manson has been able to install the pre-cast mask over the trench-laid pipe, which reduces the remaining amount of offshore work to be completed,” Johnson said.
She continued, “We’re very motivated to get this project done.”
The Army Corps permit was modified March 16, Johnson said.
The fact that crews will continue working in the water worries Suzanne Thurman, the executive director of the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute, who says large whale species that migrate past Rehoboth in spring are already dying at an alarming rate.
“That’s of great concern to me because these regulations, these deadlines and other things were put into place to preserve the well-being of these animals,” Thurman said.
In January, Thurman sought protection for marine life through an appeal against Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin’s decision to allow construction of the outfall pipe to proceed. Since she filed an appeal as a resident and not as the MERR Institute, the Environmental Appeals Board denied it, saying she would not be affected as an individual resident.
Thurman said she has been notified of a few seal strandings this year near Gordon’s Pond in Rehoboth Beach, but it’s unclear whether or not the seals came out of the water due to stress.
“All of them went back into the water at their own accord,” Thurman said. “At this point in time, I can’t point to a stranding that I could confirm 100 percent was due to any impacts from the construction.”
In an email, Army Corps spokesman Steve Rochette said the Army Corps’ Regulatory Office completed an analysis in 2016 that concluded “the additional time would not have an adverse impact on any endangered species.”
The city is working with Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to have similar deadline restrictions removed from their permit as well, Johnson said.
Rehoboth Beach is still required to stop dumping its treated wastewater into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal by June 1.