Sussex County Delaware

Beach Erosion Could
Claim Beachfront
Homes in 30 Years


 
Sussex Beat, June 27, 2000

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.

CURRENT SUSSEX BEAT:

Eric Magill, Sussex County Online

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online
Publisher

FEMA Report ...

Beach Erosion:
Voice Your Opinion

A report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, June 27, 2000, should scare some beach property owners on Delaware's coastline.

In a dramatic report that includes a photograph of how much damage beach erosion will do in South Bethany within the next 30 to 60 years, FEMA estimates that 25 percent of homes within 500 feet of U.S. coastlines and Great Lakes coastlines will be lost to erosion by 2060.

The South Bethany photo really hits home. It shows that all of the beachfront homes in South Bethany will be lost or in the water within 30 years and that houses beyond Ocean Drive will suffer the same fate within 60 years.

In addition, the report states that Sussex County's average erosion rate of 3 to 4 feet per year is the second highest erosion rate in the country, trailing only the 5 to 6 feet lost per year on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Using the current erosion rate of 3 to 4 feet per year in Sussex County, that would put the shoreline as many as three houses back from the current shoreline.

That's not such a difficult scenario to comprehend in South Bethany, where we've expected the beachfront homes, built in front of the dune line, to fall into the ocean with every major storm.

The report, though, should give a sense of urgency to resort and state officials regarding what should be done for a problem that will affect many of us in our lifetimes.

If FEMA's report proves accurate, a number of thorny issues will arise regarding property rights, rights-of-way, cleanup, and financial responsibility.

In the report, FEMA presented the following options for dealing with some of those questions:

  • Prepare and disseminate maps showing areas subject to erosion.
  • Create Coastal High Hazard Zones that include both flood and erosion risks.
  • Impose a mandatory surcharge for erosion on flood insurance in Coastal High Hazard Zones.
  • Combine erosion surcharges with regulatory measures such as set-backs to reduce damages.
  • Require communities to impose building standards appropriate for future flood conditions expected because of erosion.
  • Provide erosion insurance in bluff areas.
  • Provide relocation assistance and/or buyouts.

Even though the report doesn't anticipate the worst damage for another 30 years, local and state officials shouldn't procrastinate on this issue. The stakes are far too high to postpone decisions until something happens.

State and local officials should determine the appropriate remedies now so that everyone knows what to expect as they make decisions about their personal and financial futures.


Your Opinion ...

You can voice your opinion on county issues in the Sussex County Online Forum or cast your vote on various Sussex County issues on our online poll. Just follow the links below to make your voice heard and your vote count:


Sites Not to be Missed ...

The Sussex County Code Book detailing county building codes, procedures and regulations is available in its entirety on the Sussex County web site. Just click the link to search it.


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