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Rehoboth outfall wins DNREC approval

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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City eyes Oct. 2017 construction start

Rehoboth Beach has received approval for state funding to build its long-awaited ocean outfall. Construction on the project, which will carry highly treated wastewater from the city treatment plant some 6,000 feet into the ocean, is expected to be complete by June 1, 2018.

Mayor Sam Cooper announced Jan. 5 that Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small approved an environmental impact statement required in order for the city to receive state funding for the $35 million project.

Cooper said the city and DNREC also worked out an extension of a court mandate that requires the city to cease dumping treated effluent in the Lewes-Re-hoboth Canal; the new date is June 1, 2018.

Approval of the environmental impact statement will allow funding for the project to be formally approved by the state's Water Infrastructure Advisory Council. The council has already approved $10 million for improvements to the city's wastewater treatment plant and has long made the Rehoboth project a top priority. No date has been set for a vote on funding.

"Obviously, I'm very pleased," Cooper said. "This is going to allow the city to move forward with the project. I'm looking forward to the day the city gets out of the bays. The city has done an awful lot to reduce our nutrients, and this is the final piece."

Cooper said he hopes to get going as soon as possible, but the most likely start date is October 2017. He was adamant the city will build in the fall and finish by the spring to avoid work during the tourist season. The plan calls for the outfall pipe to begin at the wastewater treatment plant, travel under Grove Park, down Henlopen Avenue and discharge more than a mile off Deauville Beach.

The city plans to begin submitting permit documents in the coming months, Cooper said, and in the summer, will hold a prebid qualification process for contractors. Contractors must submit qualifications before they can bid, he said.

The estimated cost of the project is $10 million for plant improvements and $25 million for outfall pipe construction.

DNREC has not yet commented on the decision; Cooper said a press release is being prepared but nothing had been issued as of press time.

Gregg Rosner, president of the Delaware chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, called the approval a tragic mistake. He said 94 percent of the state's waterways have some level of pollution, and the construction of this outfall will make it 100 percent.

"Congratulations," he said.

Rosner said the approval doesn't mean digging is going to start anytime soon, with many steps still to go. He said no ocean outfall has been approved in the United States in the past 25 years for good reason; Rosner said former DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara was smart for not making a decision on the outfall before he left office last year. Rosner said this decision is on Small, and it shows an incredible lack of vision by the state and violates state statutes. He also said state officials will have to explain how the outfall is legal under the Coastal Zone Act.

Rosner said the town of Re-hoboth has no idea what they've gotten themselves into. He said the city went with ocean outfall because it appears to be the cheapest alternative, but he anticipates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is going to ask for a redesign and a new remediation plan. The Surfrider Foundation has pointed to a letter from NOAA as part of the impact-statement comments saying the outfall will have an adverse effect on the fish population and would require additional testing.


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Original Publication Date: January 6, 2015

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