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2000 Annual Update

Blades Marina

We have continued our opposition to the proposed Blades Marina by taking the case into Delaware Superior Court. (We were able to bypass the Environmental Appeals Board, with agreement of all parties, which saved us a considerable sum of money in legal fees.) The marina was approved by the secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), despite objections on the part of DNREC staff.

In 1999, DNREC, based on its own assessment of the Nanticoke River as “the most beautiful stretch of river in Delaware and … one of the most pristine on the Chesapeake Basin,” containing a “richly diverse array of wetlands and upland species of vegetation,” designated the Nanticoke an ERES waterway, or a waterway of “exceptional recreational or ecological significance.” However, the State of Delaware, even before DNREC had completed its analysis of the marina proposal, appropriated a total of $4,700,000.00 to fund the project and its land acquisition. The enormous political pressure generated by this situation is obvious, and, we feel, led to approval of a project that was neither economically nor environmentally justifiable.

Our appeal is based on the following arguments:

1. The Superior Court should reverse the decision by the secretary of DNREC to approve construction of the Blades Marina, because the decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

2. The secretary’s decision to approve an 87 wetslip marina violated the state’s marina regulations. (In cases such as this, DNREC may issue a permit only “for the alternative found to be the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”)

3. The secretary’s decision violated the specific requirements of the Delaware Wetlands Act.

A decision on this appeal is expected by mid-April. If we win (and I think the odds are good), the marina developers have stated they intend to appeal to the state Supreme Court. If we lose, an appeal is also open to us. In either case, this will probably cost more money! As of now, we are in sound financial shape, and we have some avenues available to us for help with future costs, but you may be receiving an appeal for help in the future. Also, you should know that the developers are proceeding with deforestation of the site in preparation for excavation, which they do at their own risk pending the appeal decisions.

Lewis marsh project

On another front, we gave testimony before the Wicomico County Board of Zoning Appeals on the Critical Areas violation of Mr. Edwin Lewis, who constructed several cabins on a pristine marsh above Rewastico Creek. After lengthy testimony, the board voted unanimously to deny him permission to have any structures within the 100’ Critical Area buffer zone and to require him to remove those structures that were. We are not sure whether Mr. Lewis will appeal this finding.

Green House on Manumsco Creek

In another case involving a Critical Area violation, Mr. Kevin Green has applied for a Critical Area tidal buffer variance to permit 2,300 ft2 of an existing dwelling to remain within the buffer. The house is on Cherry Walk Road beside Manumsco Creek, and tidal wetlands have been filled and the house sited improperly, apparently based on an erroneous survey conducted years before construction (the owner obtained a site plan approval without a new survey). The Critical Area Commission is recommending moving the house, but the Board of Zoning Appeals may find legal grounds for granting the variance. The county Planning and Zoning Office is recommending other measures in the event the house is not moved, considering that the family is living in the house and the necessary county permits to build it were obtained. This is a very difficult case, one that could set a dangerous precedent and one we are watching carefully. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 13 at 7 pm in Council Chambers.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital marsh destruction

We have also objected in writing to a proposal by Nanticoke Health Services to fill in wetlands in order to expand the hospital at Seaford out over the Nanticoke River. While we don’t argue with the importance of adding to the hospital, we are certain there is a more environmentally sound manner in which to do it.

Roaring Point

The Friends of the Nanticoke have continued to monitor the condition of the new Wicomico County park at Roaring Point. We are urging the county to maintain the current gravel paving in the parking lot and entry drive, instead of paving it with asphalt. It has already been demonstrated that the gravel surface will handle wheelchair travel without any difficulty, and this surface will generate much less runoff, and ultimately less erosion, into the river. If you have a chance, let Gary Mackes at the Wicomico County Parks and Recreation Department know that you think the paving is fine as it is. He can be reached at 548-4900 x106. Public comment, as you know, carries a lot of weight, and Gary is always willing to discuss any park matters with interested persons. We will have some volunteer opportunities at the park coming up, too.