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Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) faces financial challenges in maintaining beach nourishment, crucial for storm protection, recreation, and habitat conservation. Jesse Hayden, DNREC’s environmental program administrator, highlighted the unsustainable annual costs of $10 to $15 million. The agency is exploring new funding sources, including cost-sharing with local beach towns.

Beach nourishment, a process involving sand placement to counter erosion, has been state-managed since the 1970s. DNREC funds these efforts through a portion of the state’s accommodations tax and works in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for certain projects. Despite significant investment over the years, increased storm frequency and intensity, partly attributed to climate change, are escalating costs.

An ongoing economic analysis seeks to address these funding challenges, involving various stakeholders, including local mayors and environmental groups. The analysis aims to explore economic benefits and develop new funding approaches.

Currently, DNREC’s main revenue sources are the state’s lodging tax and state bond bills. However, as costs rise, officials recognize the need to reassess funding structures. The possibility of involving those who benefit from beach nourishment, primarily coastal towns, is being considered.

Local officials, however, argue for continued state funding without local cost-sharing. They point out the significant economic contributions of coastal communities to the state’s economy, including job creation and tax revenue generation. The debate continues on the most equitable way to fund these essential shoreline management projects.


Delaware Beaches Online brings forth an interesting update on DNREC’s recent move to initiate a study focusing on the economic impacts of beach nourishment along Delaware’s coastlines. Recognizing the pivotal role that beaches and dunes play in safeguarding infrastructure against coastal erosion, as well as their importance for recreation and natural habitats, DNREC aims to delve deeper into the far-reaching benefits of these efforts.

The study’s intent is not just academic; it seeks to create a framework for cost-sharing, identifying how the advantages of beach nourishment are distributed among various stakeholders. This could lead to new funding strategies for shoreline maintenance, with the potential for municipal contributions being a topic of considerable debate.

During a recent Rehoboth Beach Commissioners Special Meeting, Mayor Stan Mills expressed concerns that this could translate into additional financial responsibilities for local towns in maintaining their beaches. This sentiment is echoed by the Association of Coastal Towns, which is cautiously approaching the subject.

The possibility of towns bearing more costs for beach replenishment has sparked diverse opinions. While some local business owners, like Greg Kalinsky of Rehoboth Beach, argue for the equitable enjoyment of state resources without overburdening individual communities, others like Jeff Housman suggest exploring different funding avenues, including parking fees, to share costs fairly.

DNREC’s shoreline and waterways team are looking to involve the public in these discussions, inviting input on the maintenance and economic viability of healthy shorelines in Delaware through a virtual meeting. This inclusive approach aims to balance the ecological needs with the economic realities of maintaining Delaware’s cherished beaches.


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