Letters to the Editor — February 20, 2015
Reader: Start over with shellfish plans
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Gov. Jack Markell and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.
Just about now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deciding whether to grease the skids for your administration’s decision to impose industrial shellfishing operations in recreational waters in Sussex County, in places surrounded by hundreds of residential homes.
These are places where grandchildren learn to water ski and to fish, where families from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, from Maryland and Washington, D.C., and, of course, from all over Delaware travel annually to enjoy the fun and sun of coastal Delaware. Places where hundreds of businesses, including popcorn and ice cream stands, kayak rentals, music venues, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels earn their living. Places from which Delaware rightly earns a reputation as a beautiful, clean, family coastal resort.
You didn’t make the decision to install industrial shellfishing in these idyllic resort neighborhoods of Sussex County. The decision was made in a deeply flawed process that made no announcement to the people who would be most significantly affected and invited no public comment from them.
Some 150 letters opposing the plan have now reached the Army Corps of Engineers, written by citizens who were blindsided when your administration mapped their adjacent recreational waters as industrial sites. In a small state like Delaware, that’s quite an uprising.
Your [Department] of Natural Resources & Environmental Control staff has toured the waters where industrial shellfishing doesn’t make sense, and they now understand why. Elected officials who favor aquaculture, like me, are calling on Delaware to modify its plan.
If the Corps of Engineers approves your administration’s request to quickstep approvals for commercial shellfishing where young waterskiers and boaters now enjoy Delaware’s waters, your goal of nurturing a new shellfishing industry in Delaware will be dogged for years with challenges. Aquaculturists — not environmentalists, but commercial fishing interests, mostly from other states — will face persistent uncertainty over whether their commercial farms might be uprooted at any moment by those challenges.
There is a route to encouraging environmentally and economically sound aquaculture in Delaware. But that route does not include installing industrial operations in residential, recreational areas.
Right now — before the Army Corps of Engineers issues its decision on Delaware’s flawed application — is the time to pull the plug, retract the proposal and fix it. Don’t give the federal agency a reason to throw it back in Delaware’s face. Recall the plan, and give DNREC a chance to fix it by redrawing its maps after proper public engagement.
Reader: Help local shops survive
With the road closures on Route 26, many small “mom-and-pop” shops and restaurants are in difficult times.
Sales are down significantly on Route 26 stores. Some may not make it to the tourist season.
You may have some favorite shops along this 4.5-mile road project — if you want to keep them around, the next three months are critical that you ignore the traffic inconvenience and patronize and support them.
Together, Millville and Ocean View should consider financial assistance with “no” interest small hardship loans, to “bridge” the gap for these tax-paying businesses.
To quote Scott Kammerer about Delaware recently, “These people didn’t turn their back on me, and I’ll never turn my back on them.”
Severna Park, Md., and Ocean View
Reader thinks Markell against senior women
It is inconceivable that Gov. Markell’s current budget plan, that he so proudly presented the other week, hinges on the subsidies provided to senior citizens. Those greedy seniors, who developed the state, established its colleges, industries and tourism, who voted for him, and who are now, as stated by Gov. Markell, to be sucking the lifeblood from the State by having their property taxes subsidized.
This must be some kind of ploy by the governor to get state senators/representatives to negotiate the senior tax subsidy against instituting another unpopular tax, like a state sales tax or higher taxes on gasoline.
The governor states the subsidy is expensive for Delaware and the expense will continue to escalate. However, based on statistics presented by the Delaware Division of Services for Aging & Adults and the U.S. Census Bureau, the following provides a comparison of Delaware’s population, growth, number of adults 60-plus with a state that has a very high senior population — namely Florida — that allows all citizens to deduct $50,000 under the Homestead Act:
• 2013 Delaware population was 917,092, a 2.1 percent increase — 45th populated of 50 states;
• 2013 Florida population was 19,317,568, a 2.7 percent increase — 4th populated of 50 states;
• 2010 Delaware population characteristics: age 60-85-plus — 182,390; number female — 100,942; females separated/widowed/divorced, 44,356.
Based on the government’s own statistics, more than half the population is female and half of that group are females who are supporting themselves and/or family members.
Additionally, statistics show people between the ages of 18-24 and 40-59 are the largest population in Delaware and exceed the elderly population.
One can only draw one conclusion, that the governor is not only anti-senior but unfairly targets senior females.
Shellfish aquaculture gets more attention
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.
The purpose of this letter is to request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny the request made by Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife to allow shellfish aquaculture in Little Assawoman Bay under NWP 48. At a minimum, I would request that additional public hearings be scheduled to ensure that the action has been carefully planned, giving due consideration to input from all stakeholders.
I understand that your decision to modify NWP 48 with the proposed regional conditions will be based on an evaluation of the probable cumulative impacts on the public interest and to assure that the activities remain minimal. It does not appear that Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife has given due consideration or obtained adequate public input as to all of the certain adverse consequences of the aquaculture activity to conservation, economics, aesthetics, environmental, recreation, safety and welfare of the people.
The Salt Meadows community has a pier and preserved marsh on the Little Assawoman Bay (LAB) adjoining one of the proposed SADA sites, although my comments apply to all of the homeowners and businesses that utilize LAB.
We utilize the BAB for kayaking, canoeing, boating and all forms of water recreational activities, as is common for a thriving vacation community. These activities bring a host of economic benefits to the State of Delaware, in addition to the personal welfare of the citizens who utilize the LAB.
It is obvious that the proposed SAFA sites will severely curtail the public use of the LAB. Further study and consideration of this impact should be considered, particularly when Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife itself admits that the aquaculture program will actually cost the State of Delaware money rather than providing any economic benefit.
It should be noted that this cost is only the cost of the program and not inclusive of any lost economic values from tourism and decreased taxes on declining property values of the bayfront communities, a factor that does not appear to have been considered in the current plan.
Safety of the users of the LAB is also a factor. Facts state that LAB has a 1.5[-meter] depth at low tide. If a paddleboarder, kayaker, canoeist, boater or sailboarder were to inadvertently cross into an aquaculture area, the chances for harm are much greater — even if the wire cages are made of coated plastic. How long will coated plastic hold up in salt waters, and will the cages be inspected by fishermen and/or state officials to ensure that they would be compliant?
This cost could arguably be defended if substantial environmental gains were to be realized. I understand that a much larger contributor to the pollution of the LAB (and all the bays included in this proposal) would not be addressed or rectified by the potential benefit from commercial aquaculture.
If Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife is truly concerned about the environmental condition of the LAB, then a comprehensive plan addressing all forms of pollution should be developed, prioritizing the largest pollution issues, with a long-term plan of action.
My community has granted a conservation easement for the bayfront marshland of our community. I am an avid birdwatcher and consider myself devoted to conservation. One of the features that attracted me to my community was the marsh and pristine views of the Little Assawoman Bay. We have nesting osprey and many shorebirds that frequent the pools in our marsh and rest on our pier.
I am unclear as to whether the additional activity from commercial aquaculture will not have a negative effect on the wildlife and water quality arising from the disturbance of the bottom through the additional powerboat activities of commercial fisherman in such low tide areas. Certainly the noise and increased activity will not be beneficial for the many forms of wildlife that currently coexist with us in our current use.
My sincere hope is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will take the prudent action to table this proposal for further comprehensive study and afford additional time for public comment to insure that Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife has adequately considered all environmental, aesthetic and economic factors.
Kathy L. Kahler Lambrow