Storm surges eat away at sand dunes in Slaughter Beach

SLAUGHTER BEACH, Del. – Slaughter Beach residents waking up to more cloudy skies, windy conditions, and cold rain Wednesday morning.

Storm Sweeps In

But their focus was not so much on the skies above. Instead, they’re keeping a close eye on how much storm surges have eaten away at the dunes. Wednesday afternoon, debris from the ocean could be seen pushed up as far as 20 to 30 yards on the sand.

Slaughter Beach Mayor Bob Wood describes the worry that comes with a storm.

“Every time I hear a storm, it’s like ‘Oh no. We’re going to have to deal with that again.’ It’s just every time, and I feel like if we had a better barrier out here, I think they would feel better,” he said. “You just never know. It’s part geography, it’s part the way the wind blows, and it’s part the way the storm sits in.”

Damaged Dunes

Sand dunes in the area are being increasingly swept away by wind and the tide. “Hurricanes are one thing, and I don’t want hurricanes. They come and go. But, this particular hurricane was a double whammy because we got the hurricane first, and now we’re having a nor’easter over three days,” said Mayor Wood.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) says those dunes usually serve as a protective barrier for the bay side community.

“That’s the first line of defense against a coastal storm. A community like Slaughter is also vulnerable to other things like flooding from the back side, and the Bay,” said Administrator of DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterway Management, Jesse Hayden. “When we’re talking about climate change, there’s a range of challenges that we face. We have a long way to go on some of them. But, we know that the work we’re doing in DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterway Management group is protecting communities and infrastructure by trying to maintain it the best we can; preserving and protecting the beach, and the dune that we have.”

But, as the water creeps up the beach, there’s also pressure from the other side of Slaughter Beach’s main drag, Bay Avenue. “Because the Mispillion River runs right down here from Milford, you can’t get out. So, it backs up into the marshes, which is on the other side,” said Mayor Wood. “The worst effect was on the houses that sit on the east side of the road. Their yards kind of got flooded, and their driveways got flooded.”

Bolstering the Beach

Hayden says DNREC has been diligently working to replenish the dunes with more sand, and by planting beach grass.

“That can help anchor the dune, it can help prevent wind-blown sand from leaving the beach area. It helps grow the dune in a natural way. That’s one of the best ways people can help preserve and conserve the dune,” said Hayden. “The good news is that, for the most part, the dune is doing its job. In a storm like this we want there to be a physical separation of the water and the waves from infrastructure like roads and houses.”

But until beach grass planting season rolls back around, Mayor Wood is waiting for stronger reinforcements from DNREC.

“What we’re really hoping is that they’re going to come by with the sand in the next couple months. That would be the first thing,” said Mayor Wood. “We didn’t really have any other damage [to the North], and thank God. I’ve seen what’s been down on the ocean beaches.”

Hoping For More Help

Mayor Wood also says he’s hoping Congress will pass the SHORRE Act. The legislation would renew the federal government’s commitment to protecting and restoring coastlines across the nation. He says that would be a huge help to communities like Slaughter Beach, found in what is frequently called the lowest lying state in the nation.

“We’re hoping the SHORRE Act will really help,” said Mayor Wood. “From what I’ve read about the SHORRE Act, there’s going to be a lot of different provisions in there that would really help Delaware, all of the beaches in Delaware.”

Categories: Delaware, Environment, Local News