Inland Bays clean-up efforts shouldn't be delayed
I have written in the past about the importance of Delaware’s Inland Bays - Rehoboth, Indian River, Little Assawoman - and their tributaries as important economic and recreational resources. Unfortunately the waters of the Inland Bays watershed have been classified as “impaired” (polluted) by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for decades due to high levels of bacteria, low levels of dissolved oxygen, high nutrient levels and the presence of toxic algae.
There are many areas that have signs posted that caution against swimming due to high numbers of bacteria. Beebe Healthcare’s emergency room has instituted a special procedure for screening patients who may have become ill as a result of contact with polluted water. So when I learn of an organization trying to undermine the clean-up efforts of DNREC and the Inland Bays Foundation, I feel a responsibility to disclose the matter to the public.
Recently, state senators and representatives from Kent and Sussex counties signed two Dec. 5 letters to DNREC urging in one that they not adopt new stormwater regulations until they were “tried out” for three years in New Castle County. And in the second letter they sought to postpone the on-site wastewater regulations until recently uncovered new information is evaluated.
Both revised regulations would provide for improvements in the water quality of the Inland Bays watershed and other “impaired waters” in Kent County. I find these requests ill-timed and, if granted, not in the best interests to the residents of and visitors to Delaware. DNREC is trying to do the right thing.
New Castle County already has stormwater, drainage and other environmental protection requirements in place that are much more stringent than those that exist in Sussex County. Why not try them in Sussex County first?
In addition, the legislators argue that the stormwater regulation could have a “chilling effect” on development in Sussex County. Building-related revenue in Sussex has been increasing for the past two years; it’s up 22 percent in the first quarter of this fiscal year, and building permits this year have increased 33 percent over 2012.
Land-use planning in New Castle County is much more comprehensive and considerate of the environmental impacts of development when compared to Sussex County’s lack of required ordinances needed for orderly growth and their lack of adherence to their state-approved land use plan.
With respect to the on-site regulations, the information contained in the Dec. 5 letter was obviously provided by the Positive Growth Alliance, since it contains identical information that the PGA presented at DNREC’s final public hearing on the regulations on Nov. 21, and their presentation at Sussex County Council on Dec. 3. It does not appear that any of this “new information” is relevant. It is only being used as yet another PGA delay maneuver. It has taken five years to develop these regulations with three public hearings, 13 workshops and interactions with many business groups in Delaware.
This last-minute effort to derail positive steps to improve the environmental quality of Delaware has been a standard PGA protocol.Where were these legislators during the years it has taken to develop a consensus on these regulations? Do they not want to keep attracting new residents and visitors to Sussex County? Do they understand that the failure to maintain a healthy environment and adhere to sound land-use planning will eventually lead to a decline in the economy?
The only thing that the Positive Growth Alliance wants is growth anywhere with little or no oversight by DNREC.So I ask the signatories - Reps. Ronald Gray, John Atkins, Ruth Briggs King, Tim Dukes, Dave Wilson, Dan Short, Harvey Kenton, Daniel Short, Donald Blakey, Jack Peterman, Jeff Spiegelman, Bobby Outten and Sens. Robert Venables, Gary Simpson, Gerald Hocker, Brian Pettyjohn, and Dave Lawson - to reconsider their requests and work toward striking a balance between sound land-use planning and environmental protection in our state.The Inland Bays Foundation strongly urges DNREC to adopt both regulations as scheduled and ask that others concerned about the quality of life in Kent and Sussex counties do the same.
William F. Moyer
immediate past president of the Inland Bays Foundation