Bethany Beach at Mercy of Tide and Storm

Date Published:
June 24, 2016

By M. Patricia Titus
Managing Editor of Coastal Point

Bethany Beach ultimately still at the mercy of tide and storm

Flooding in Bethany Beach makes its way down to Little Assawoman Bay and Assawoman Bay, polluting both... (Image created on Google Earth)
Flooding in Bethany Beach makes its way down to Little Assawoman Bay and Assawoman Bay, polluting both… (Image created on Google Earth)

There’s no way around it: Bethany Beach floods. Land in the town ranges from just below sea level to as much as 10 feet above it, with much of the

town coming in somewhere between sea level and just 3 feet above. The result is that, whether it’s from tidal flow from the Indian River Bay and its tributaries or from heavy rain, there’s not much the Town can do to eliminate recurring flooding, though it has certainly tried over the years.

On Saturday, June 18, the Bethany Beach Landowners Association (BBLA) held its annual meeting, and Town Manager Cliff Graviet spent a substantial portion of his time updating members on just exactly where the town stands regarding its flooding problems.

The update came as the Town decides what, if anything, it can do next to try to address the issue, in the wake of a joint study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that essentially gave the Town the same answer it’s been getting for decades: Without a major investment of funds, the status quo is about the best they can expect.

“We could spend several million dollars and take care of minimal events,” Graviet said, “But we will be flooded anyway with larger events.”

He noted that more and more of those larger events have been occurring in recent years, too.

“We’ve had complaints in the last couple years that it was working less, and we were flooded more than has been the case,” he acknowledged.

Even for “nuisance flooding,” the frequency of days with flooding is increasing over time, he said.

“We’re at or below sea level, and we’re experiencing more tidal flooding. We can’t figure out a way to combat tidal flooding. We’re no closer to solving that than when we started.”

Tidal and rainwater flooding pose trouble

Setting the scene for the local recipe for flooding, Graviet noted that the Loop Canal that runs through part of the town is a tidal body of water, which sometimes pushes large amounts of water into the town, overflowing its banks and sending water into yards and streets.

The Assawoman Canal that feeds it and runs to the south is also tidal, and the large ditch between the town’s Bethany West community and neighboring Sea Colony is partly tidal, all offering potential for adding water to any flooding event.

The bulk of the town’s development has happened since 1954, with “build-out” having been achieved by the early 1990s, Graviet said. That means the Town is dealing with a situation created many decades ago, including the impact of the man made Assawoman and Loop canals.


The Inland Bays Foundation found this article informative because this flooding ultimately winds up polluting Assawoman Bay. We applaud Coastal Point for its coverage.

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