Letters to the Editor — July 28, 2017

Reader responds to previous guest column


In the July 14, 2017, guest column “Rescinding WOTUS rule is a step in the right direction,” Ms. Kitty Holtz of the Delaware Farm Bureau lauded U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to rescind the waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rulemaking designed to protect our nation’s water quality.

She wrote: “…the rule exceeds EPA’s statutory authority, imposes burdensome regulatory uncertainty, was promulgated in violation of mandatory procedural requirements designed to ensure a well-informed result, and is otherwise unlawful.” Informed citizens would dispute her statement.

Let’s leave legal issues aside and focus on Delaware’s, and particularly Sussex County’s, water quality, an issue of importance to our fisheries, recreational enjoyment, public health and the economy.

The … map taken from DNREC’s website shows that a staggering percentage of streams and rivers in Southern Delaware’s watersheds are impaired, a.k.a. polluted (e.g., from nutrient contamination), and therefore not supporting their designated uses, such as recreation, fishing or drinking. The map paints a bleak picture, particularly in Southeastern Delaware, with 100 percent impairment.

In 2016, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays program wrote: “Agriculture is the largest land use in the watershed, and it contributes the most pollution through the unintentional loss of fertilizers to waters.”

Eight nutrient management restoration goals were established by the program. According to the report, since tracking began in 2005, “Only one of eight identified agricultural nutrient management control practices, a regulatory requirement to conduct nutrient management planning met its established goal.”

In striking contrast, three of the eight goals made only 2 percent progress or less. One goal was to establish grassed buffers along 1,718 acres. Planting grass buffers along waterways is an easy and inexpensive method for reducing sediment and pollutant runoff. More than a decade has passed, and slightly more than 34 acres (2 percent) have been created. Thirty-five acres equals about .055 square miles. Check the decimal and the extremes: 100 percent impairment; 1 or 2 percent progress toward the goal.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Choose Clean Water Coalition found Delaware to be “off track” in implementing grass buffers and responsible storage and handling of manure and chicken litter (though numbers may be underreported due to the voluntary nature of the program).

I appreciate that the agricultural industry has taken some steps toward controlling pollution. At the same time, I understand the water quality challenges presented by Sussex County’s rapidly growing residential and commercial sector. All need to do better to protect aquatic life, recreational opportunities and public health.

Ms. Holtz quotes the American Farm Bureau’s president: “We know the importance of clean water, and farmers and ranchers work hard to protect our natural resources every day.” Unfortunately, rescinding the rulemaking is not a “step in the right direction.” It’s a giant leap backwards. With cruel irony, AFB’s president said farmers and ranchers cheer the “ditching” of the rule. Sussex County’s tax ditches release pollutants directly to our waters.

However the rulemaking proceeds, let’s drink to the AFB president’s assurance of natural resource protection and to the continued fortitude and vigor of our local, state and federal environmental protection agencies.

As to AFB’s concern federal over-reach and intervention, perhaps we should give careful consideration to the billions of federal tax dollars funding agricultural price supports that distort free-market economics.

Bob Linett
Ocean View

Reader upset with energy proposal


As an ex-New-Yorker, member of the Nature Conservancy, what I’d like to know is why would the Trump administration want to use a costly method to extract subsea petrochemicals when there are off-the-shelf energy-efficient alternatives?

If he wants to get America working again, does he have to do it at the expense of the fishing industry and the tourist industry that’s based in the coastal towns in Delaware?

As a former real estate magnate, he should know there are alternate energy sources, such as wind turbines, which can be built offshore, solar panels, geothermal, compressed natural gas, and last but not least, bio-diesel. Many of the above have been used here in the Delmarva Peninsula, in New York as well.

If the president wishes to engage in this costly endeavor, maybe he should do it in front of his place in Mar A Largo and leave us Delmarva residents alone!

Ralph Nerbel

Shore Democrats meet, eye Jamboree


The monthly meeting of the Shore Democrats was held on July 19 at NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, Del. We welcomed seven new members, shared a delicious lunch and greeted our guest speakers: Jane Hovington (current Democratic chair of Sussex County) and Betty Deacon (previously a campaign director for Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland).

They spoke to us about their shared interest and involvement in the restoration of the Richard Allen School in Georgetown, Del. The school was funded in the 1920s by Pierre S DuPont to provide a school for African-Americans who were not welcomed in white public schools until desegregation in 1967.

They are now in the process of restoring the school where they hope it will be used to preserve the history and artifacts of the public education of African-Americans in Sussex County. It could serve as a community center where educational programs for young people can be held and provide space for workshops to inspire young people to continue the work for civil and human rights and improve their skills.

Both Jane Hovington (founding member of the board of the Richard Allen School) and Betty Deacon (executive director) helped to make us aware of the goals and mission of the Richard Allen School.

Next month, there will be no regular Shore Democrats meeting, but all are encouraged to attend the State Democratic 2017 Jamboree on the 19th of August at 11a.m. at the Cape Henlopen park. Tickets are available online.

Shore Democrats

Statler shows pride in IRSD special education


The Indian River School District is committed to providing the best possible support programs and services for students with disabilities in special education. As a Board member, I was given a wonderful opportunity to serve as the chair of the Special Education Task Force this past school year. It was a unique and amazing journey that has resulted in targeted growth for our administrators, teachers, support staff and, ultimately, for students.

The task force formed late in the spring of 2015 as a structured mechanism for the district to complete an evaluation of special education services. The committee was comprised of teachers, administrators and IEP coordinators. The group was focused on identifying current challenges, developing a priority framework for the future and highlighting successful best practices.

The task force created a very unique partnership in the district between administration and the Board of Education. We embarked on a self-examination journey. As most will admit, self-examination is not an easy task. Most would say it is even more difficult with a Board member leading your group! However, what we discovered is that through transparency, open conversations, and belief in the project, we flourished in ways that were certainly not anticipated. We all worked toward the common goal of student success in ways that made me extremely proud to be a part of the Indian River School District.

So what did we learn in a nutshell? We learned that we have many things to be proud of in our district. We have devoted families that live in our communities, students that are eager to grow academically and teachers that want to facilitate successful outcomes for all learners.

We learned we had a host of “superstars” in our buildings when we recognized achievements through the Special Education Ambassadors program. We found a great tool to carry our message through the Special Education Week initiatives held in late February. In addition, we refined our Vision and Mission statements and were able to write a Strategic Plan that will help to steer the department moving forward.

We also discovered areas that we can strengthen via our surveys to building staff, the community and our frontline special education teams. We learned ways to increase our supports to families through a series of Parent Focus Groups. We discovered a need for more training, increased resources, and more flexible program development. Common through everything we explored, we found students always at the center of our conversations.

I am very proud of the team of individuals who devoted their energy and time to this self-evaluation process. In an age where there are many negative stories at the forefront of our daily news, I would like to pause to recognize how extremely positive this endeavor has been for me both personally and professionally. I am very proud of our special-education department and look forward to the years ahead and the work we will do as a community.

I encourage any parent or family member who would like to speak with me regarding special education services in the district to please contact me. I can be reached at heather.statler@irsd.k12.de.us.

Dr. Heather Statler, District 3
IRSD Board of Education