FENWICK ISLAND – State and local officials are encouraging Fenwick Island residents to write letters that express the need for dredging the Little Assawoman Bay after hearing the community’s concerns at a public meeting in Fenwick Island last week.
Last Friday, officials with the Town of Fenwick Island invited members of the community to attend a dredging workshop with Senator Gerald Hocker and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Administrator Tony Pratt in an effort to garner support for dredging the neighboring Little Assawoman Bay and to voice concerns about current safety conditions along its waterways.
Pratt told attendees the state is expected to generate an additional $1.3 million in anticipated revenue from increased boat registration fees to fund dredging projects, but shared the exponential costs and time associated with dredging.
“As you can see, we have a tremendous need and a very small revenue stream to treat it,” he said.
Hocker expressed his support for dredging the bays, but said the state would need to find the money to address the problem.
Hocker said he has set up a meeting with Delaware Gov. John Carney and the DNREC secretary to discuss the issue further.
“We will do all we can,” he said.
Several residents who attended last week’s workshop voiced their concerns regarding the bay’s shallow waters and subsequent safety issues.
Property owner Charlie Hastings said one of the few ways boaters navigate the shallow waters is to follow markings that he placed in the water. He suggested state officials consider marking the bay’s channels.
“A very inexpensive way to open up these channels is to mark them so we use them constantly over and over again,” he said. “That stirs up the dirt.”
Fenwick Island resident Karin Lakin relayed safety concerns along the canals near her home.
“This past summer has been one of the most frustrating and scary of all,” she said.
Lakin said she and her family often have to accelerate their boat to a high speed to successfully make it through the shallow waters, often dodging kayakers and those on paddleboards.
“They don’t understand that when we come out of our canal we have to accelerate to top speed to get out safely,” she said. “We cannot veer out of their way.”
As result, Lakin said she began a petition that supports dredging efforts along connecting waterways within the Little Assawoman Bay.
“We decided it was time for us to have more of a voice,” she said.
Lakin said her hope is for dredging to prevent serious and fatal accidents.
Resident Chris Kent asked Pratt how the state prioritized dredging projects.
“How do you go about prioritizing?” he said. “Is it just the squeaky wheel?”
Pratt replied that dredging projects had no formal metrics or economic basis, but are made priorities based on boating demands, constituent contacts and the like.
Pratt said several dredging projects are currently on the state’s immediate list, but encouraged residents to voice their concerns about Little Assawoman Bay to representatives and state officials.
“This bay has to have a lot of voice and you are starting that today,” he said.
Town Manager Terry Tieman and Councilwoman Julie Lee emphasized the importance of writing letters.
“Don’t think that a neighbor is going to do it or the council is going to do it,” Lee said. “They want to hear from their constituents.”