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2003 Annual Update

Edwin Lewis marsh hunting complex construction on Rewastico Creek

The ongoing matter of the hunting lodge construction in the marsh near Rewastico Creek by Edwin Lewis without permits and counter to Critical Area regulations has taken a new turn. Last month, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest state court) on a 4-3 vote overturned the ruling by the lower Court of Special Appeals, and the findings of the local Board of Zoning Appeals, that the construction would not be permitted. The high court ruled that the Board of Zoning Appeals had not proven that Mr. Lewis had harmed the river by his activity. The premise of the Critical Areas law is that cumulative impacts of development within 1000 feet of tidal waters are harming the bay and must be minimized. No one project can be conclusively linked to water quality, but all contribute to some degree. In addition, the fact that this work was done in flagrant violation of the law, without any permits, makes it even more alarming that the high court would grant Mr. Lewis’ appeal. The state requested that the high court re-hear the case, which it refused to do. This decision has greatly threatened the Critical Areas legal situation regarding protection of shorelines from harmful impacts. We are reviewing the ruling and plan to support the Critical Area Commission in pursuing this at the county level, but perhaps the more encouraging news is that the MD legislature will be considering a bill to counter this ruling and give the state a mandate to deny such obviously destructive activities. We will keep our members posted when it may be helpful to contact legislators on this and other issues.

Wetipquin Creek Bridge

Another issue impacting the river is the proposed change in elevation of the bridge over Wetipquin Creek. In response to a request by a few landowners, the Coast Guard informed Wicomico County that it must raise the bridge in order to permit large boats to travel into the creek. The County Council voted to oppose this mandate and to request a permit from the Coast Guard to replace the structure as it is, and Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Gilchrest have also appealed to the Coast Guard to reverse its position. The Friends feel this is an unwise expense of taxpayers’ dollars in a time of fiscal crisis within the state. This change will cost the county an additional $700,000 to $1 million, and will require ongoing maintenance dredging of the channel to and perhaps beyond the bridge. We also argued before the County Council that this is a pristine creek used by numerous canoe and kayak travelers, and that boat wakes would cause serious damage to the wetlands upstream. As of this time, a decision by the Coast Guard is still pending. Wicomico County recently completed temporary repairs to this bridge, and it is now submitting applications to the appropriate agencies for approval to replace it with one of the same dimensions. We will continue to support the county in this matter, as it proceeds in a way that is least harmful to the creek and its wetlands.

Nanticoke Harbor parking lot

The Wicomico County Parks and Recreation Dept. has decided to pave the new parking lot at the Nanticoke Harbor boat ramp. We encouraged them to employ a system for treating the runoff from this lot before it enters the harbor, and Gary Mackes and his staff have designed and will install a filtration unit to trap oil and sediment, at a cost considerably lower than comparable commercial units. We are hopeful that this system will be a great improvement for the water quality in the harbor over the current packed gravel bed that channels to a drain leading directly into the harbor, and we appreciate the efforts of the Recreation and Parks staff to reach a positive solution to this problem.

Development of a web site

With the generous help and financial support of Dr. Catherine Beise of Salisbury University, we now have a nice web site at www.friendsofthenanticoke.org. Please check this site for more details on the above items from our mid-year update, if you missed it, plus notices of upcoming events as they are posted in the next year! You’ll also find some nice photos of past events and of the river itself – enjoy!

Nanticoke River Wade-In

The Friends co-sponsored the 5th Annual Lower Eastern Shore Wade-In on June 21. Thanks to those of you who participated! We did an unscientific assessment of water clarity at Roaring Point beach, on a beautiful but windy day. This event was designed to draw attention to the river and its water quality, and television news coverage was a big help in this objective.

Annual Coastal Cleanup near Seaford

Volunteers from the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance partners combined a canoe trip with the Chapel Branch cleanup and cook-out on an absolutely beautiful late summer day. Among the interesting trash were a computer monitor washed up into the marsh, and a perfectly good (ask Frank Connor!) barrel. This was not long after Hurricane Isabel, so the creek was washed clean in places and trash was focused in others.