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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Gov. Markell, DNREC Sec. O’Mara announce repairs and restorations of New Castle levees

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Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902. 

Governor Markell, DNREC Sec. O’Mara announce
repairs and restorations of New Castle levees
Increases coastal resiliency and protections
to city and surrounding areas from coastal storms

NEW CASTLE, Del. (June 23, 2014) – Today at the newly restored Gambacorta Marsh Dike, Governor Jack Markell, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, State Senator Nicole Poore (D-Barbs Farm) and State Representative Michael Mulrooney (D-Pennwood) were joined by City of New Castle Mayor Donald Reese, council members and other officials to highlight a multi-year effort to repair and restore the centuries-old levees that provide the City of New Castle and surrounding areas with increased flood protection from the Delaware River and reduced impacts from coastal storms. The infrastructure improvements not only represent a significant milestone in coastal resiliency, but benefit the local economy and provide recreational opportunities for the community through new or enhanced walking and bicycling trails at the crest of Army Creek, Gambacorta and Broad Marsh Dikes.

“The restored levees play a key role in the safety and security of our citizens and the protection of homes, properties and infrastructure against powerful storms and rising sea levels,” said Gov. Markell.  “Investments in water control infrastructures, like those made here, reduce flooding, support jobs, and bolster the economic revitalization of our communities.”

The reconstructed levees generally consist of earthen embankments with stone armoring and water control structures designed to reduce flooding on adjacent and upstream properties. Originally built between the late 1600’s and mid 1800’s, the five historic levees, Red Lion Creek, Army Creek, Gambacorta Marsh, Broad Marsh, and Buttonwood Dikes, have been periodically reinforced and repaired, but years of neglect coupled with impacts from coastal storms and hurricanes, including Sandy, have resulted in severe erosion and overtopping of the levees, leading to breaches and the near failure of some structures.

 “As a low-lying coastal state, Delaware has seen its fair share of flooding from severe weather," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "That is why it is so important that federal, state and local partners work together to mitigate the effects of future storms so we can protect our homes, businesses, schools and communities from disaster."

“Restoring the New Castle levees is a prime example of Delaware’s strategy to improve coastal resiliency and our preparedness to storms, sea level rise and other climate impacts and is essential to supporting a thriving economy and protecting the health and safety of our residents,” said Secretary O’Mara. “I want to thank everyone involved – the Governor, State Legislators, New Castle Conservation District, the team at DNREC, the City of New Castle, and the Army Corps for working together to expedite this project after the levees were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy.”

Rep. Mulrooney and Sen. Poore represent the area protected by the levees,  and led the push to provide funding needed to restore and strengthen them. “Recent storms have shown the critical protection that these dikes provide for the residents and businesses of Old New Castle,” said Rep. Mulrooney. “By working together to proactively restore and rebuild smarter, we will protect Delaware’s rich history and ensure a bright future for Old New Castle.”

“Thousands of hard-working Delaware families rely on these dikes to protect them from the ravages of storms and high water, and I think we all know we dodged a bullet when Sandy came ashore,” Sen. Poore said. “But it was a wakeup call for all of us, and I’m proud of the teamwork among DNREC, the New Castle Conservation District and my partners in the General Assembly for making sure this vital work was given the priority treatment it needed.”

Planning for the project began in 2009 as part of DNREC’s Coastal Management Assistance Program, administered by Delaware Coastal Programs (DCP), which assists communities in identifying vulnerabilities to coastal hazards and planning to reduce impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise. DCP contracted for an initial survey and inspection of the levees, all of which were deemed “unacceptable” by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program Standards. DCP then worked with the City of New Castle to convene an advisory group comprising city, state, and county officials and community representatives to develop a plan to restore and maintain the levees.

As a result of this planning effort combined with the impacts of Sandy, the General Assembly appropriated more than $7.5 million to repair and restore the levees through the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Bond Bills.

As a means to safeguard the state’s investment, the levees were designed to meet the standards of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rehabilitation and Inspection Program, which requires regular inspections and maintenance to reduce the risk of failures and provides cost share assistance in the event of future storm damage. Additional funding for the project was provided by the DNREC’s Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act funds, the Federal Emergency Management Agency for post-Sandy recovery, and DNREC’s Trails and Pathways Bond Bill funds. DNREC partnered with the New Castle Conservation District to handle day-to-day operations, including engineering, design, permitting and overseeing the construction of the project.

“After viewing the dikes from the river, on a boat trip attended by the Governor, I realized just how extensive the damage was, and how fortunate we are in the timing of having the dikes repaired,” said Mayor Don Reese. “Thanks to all who assisted with this project.”

“I can’t say enough about how important it is to the residents of New Castle that this project was completed in as timely a manner as it was; and how grateful we are to everyone who assisted in making it happen,” said City Administrator Bill Barthel.

The completed project provides both coastal protection and a recreational amenity for the community in the form of a trail at the crest of Army Creek and Gambacorta Marsh Dikes and the upland area between the levees has been enhanced to provide better recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Long-term maintenance is necessary for the proper operation of these structures. Army Creek, Gambacorta Marsh, Broad Marsh, and Buttonwood Creek Dikes will be maintained by the City of New Castle. Due to contamination concerns upstream, DNREC will maintain the Red Lion Creek Dike.

Recent archeological surveys conducted as part of the restoration effort concluded all five levees are eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places based upon their historic roles in agriculture, transportation and/or conservation, among other criteria.

For more information on the levee restoration project, contact Bonnie Arvay, environmental scientist, Delaware Coastal Programs at or 302-739-9283 or Kevin Donnelly, director, New Castle Conservation District 302-832-3100. Photos of the levees before and after their repairs and restoration can be found on the DNREC website.

New Castle Levees

Red Lion Creek Dike
The Red Lion Dike is located just north of the Delaware City industrial complex. It was built over 250 years ago primarily for agricultural use and currently protects an industrial area. The Red Lion Dike has been reinforced and repaired over the years, but recent intense storms and wind-driven waves from the Delaware River have overtopped it and caused severe erosion and breaching.

Levee Restoration Facts:
Restoration Contractor: Eastern States Construction Services of Wilmington, DE
Elevation: 9 ft. (NAVD88)
Length: 1,900 ft.
Originally built: circa 1762

Gambacorta Marsh Dike
The Gambacorta Marsh Dike located just south of Battery Park in the City of New Castle was constructed primarily for transportation purposes, supporting a rail line to the Delaware Iron Company that occupied the area between it and Army Creek Dike. Currently Gambacorta Marsh Dike protects businesses and homes, as well as a section of Delaware’s Bayshore Byway (Route 9).  

Levee Restoration Facts:
Restoration Contractor: KC Construction Company of Ivyland, PA
Elevation: 8.5 ft. (NAVD88)
Length: 1,650 ft. (plus a 300 ft. extension to connect to high ground)
Originally built: circa 1845

As part of the levee restoration, improvements were made to the recreation trail extending from the southern end of Army Creek Dike, along the Delaware River east of Dobbinsville, up to the northern end of Gambacorta Marsh Dike. The trail, just over 1¼ miles long, was widened and paved and is used heavily by residents and visitors to the city.

Army Creek Dike
The southernmost flood protection dike in the City of New Castle, Army Creek Dike was constructed primarily for agriculture purposes and currently serves to protect the Delaware’s Bayshore Byway (Rt. 9), just south of Dobbinsville and a few surrounding structures. 

Levee Restoration Facts:
Restoration Contractor: KC Construction Company of Ivyland, PA
Elevation: 8.5 ft. (NAVD88)
Length: 3,100ft.
Originally built: circa 1775

Broad Marsh Dike
Broad Marsh Dike, the oldest of all the levees (built almost 340 years ago), was used primarily for transportation purposes. Located just north of the historic town center, it was recently acquired by the City of New Castle. The city is protecting the dike and adjacent wetlands with a permanent conservation easement. Upon completion, recreational access will be allowed along Broad Marsh Dike, however, that trail will remain unpaved as it is located within a wetland conservation easement area.   

Levee Restoration Facts:
Restoration Contractor: Merit Construction Engineers of Wilmington, DE
Elevation: 8.5 ft. (NAVD88)
Length: 1,350 ft. plus 1000 ft. extension to connect to high ground
Originally built: circa 1675

Buttonwood Dike
Buttonwood Dike is the northernmost flood protection dike in the City of New Castle. Its recently rebuilt floodgate structure is located at the confluence of Buttonwood Ditch and the Delaware River. The levee and floodgate protect the historic Buttonwood community from coastal flooding, while allowing for limited tidal flushing into Buttonwood Ditch, which helps improve the health of adjacent wetlands.

Levee Restoration Facts:
Restoration Contractor: Merit Construction Engineers of Wilmington, DE
Elevation: 8.5 ft. (NAVD88)
Length: 1,850 ft.
Originally built: circa 1786

Vol. 44, No. 214 

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