Fenwick Approves Funds For Inland Bays Requests

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island voted last week to support two funding requests from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted 6-0, with Councilman Richard Mais abstaining, to contribute $3,000 toward two initiatives from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.

Executive Director Chris Bason told the council last week the organization was seeking financial support from agencies and coastal towns to complete a study on the economic value of the inland bays. He said the project’s goal is to target federal and state funding and to garner support from local agencies and the public.

“The idea is that this study would be directed toward the appropriators, both at the state level and the federal level,” he said. “Although we can’t guarantee it, we feel this information will be very helpful for those appropriators to allocate more money to cleaning up our waters in the inland bays and also for waterway management, including dredging.”

Officials noted that contributors included the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, University of Delaware Sea Grant and Henlopen Acres. Sussex County has also agreed to match dollar for dollar any funds contributed by local municipalities.

To that end, Bason said he was seeking support from coastal towns to help fund the study, which would cost $53,749 to complete.

“It needs to be a team effort,” he said. “All the coastal towns need to be in on this effort to get better waterway management and more clean water funding.”

The Center for the Inland Bays last week requested a $2,000 contribution from Fenwick Island. The council ultimately voted 6-0 to use money from the town’s Community Outreach Program to fund the request.

“I think we have money in that Community Outreach Program that we have not used,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said. “So I am in favor of giving you that money.

Mais, a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for the Inland Bays, abstained.

The council this week also voted 6-0 to contribute $1,000 to the organization’s Oyster Gardening Program. The Center for the Inland Bays sought funding to expand its program to Fenwick Island.

“Currently, the Town of South Bethany participates, and I think some of our own residents participate,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said. “South Bethany gave a $1,000 donation and the Center does require a $50 participation donation from each gardener. So the gardener has some skin in the game too.”

Since 2003, the Oyster Gardening Program has employed the use of volunteers to raise small amounts of oysters in the waters that surround their docks and bulkheads. The Center provides juvenile oysters and gear to raise them, while the volunteer gardeners provide basic husbandry to grow the oysters, which are used in restoration projects.

The program originally started through a grant from the national Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five-Star Restoration Challenge Grant Program. However, the program is currently supported through a cooperative effort among the Center, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the Town of South Bethany and the volunteers.

Tieman noted the program improves water quality through restoration efforts, protects young spat, creates habitats for other marine species and educates volunteers and the public, among other things.

“I do believe this contributes to the health of the bay as well,” she said.

Bason told the council last week the program was one of two initiatives to grow the oyster population. Currently, the program includes 150 volunteer gardeners at sites around the inland bays.

“This is one part of a larger effort to bring the oysters back to the inland bays,” he said. “Without this program, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.