DNREC events to offer answers about dredging, navigability

Sometimes environmental projects can feel like a bit of a mystery. How does Delaware maintain its waterways, and how can the public make their concerns known?

DNREC’s Shoreline & Waterway Management Section will be holding three informational public open-house workshops in the coming weeks to share information about dredging and other waterway management operations in Delaware’s Inland Bays.

With some Sussex Countians looking forward to the upcoming Massey’s Ditch project, the time is ripe to fully educate the public about those projects and related services, while discussing the broader picture of DNREC’s methods of prioritization.

“This will be the first public workshop directly related to our waterway management operations,” said DNREC spokesperson Michael Globetti. “While DNREC’s Shoreline & Waterway Management Section is getting ready to undertake the Massey’s Ditch project, we also wanted to take the opportunity to include other aspects of our waterway management operations in the workshops at the same time.”

The workshops are scheduled on three days:

• Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., at the South Coastal Library, 43 Kent Avenue, Bethany Beach.

• Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., at the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company fire hall, 32628 Oak Orchard Road, Millsboro.

• Sunday, Nov. 3, from 1 to 3:30 p.m., at the Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Avenue, Lewes.

“The public can expect several stations manned by DNREC staff to discuss our in-house operations, the upcoming Massey’s Ditch project, informational posters about our waterway management operations and have an in-person opportunity to take the dredging prioritization survey,” Globetti said.

The workshops will also provide an overview of Delaware’s waterway management operations, including dredging, channel marking and surveying, macro-algae harvesting and more.

Massey’s Ditch coming in January

Massey’s Ditch is scheduled for a wintertime dredging project to improve the connection between the Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay.

“DNREC’s Shoreline & Waterway Management Section staff are scheduled to meet with our contractor, J.F. Brennan of La Crosse, Wisc., on Nov. 8 to finalize plans for the staging areas,” said Globetti. “They are expected to begin mobilizing dredge pipe and equipment to the project site the following week. Dredging is anticipated to begin in early January and take approximately 31 days to complete.”

“This is great news for local recreational boaters,” said state Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-37th). “It’s been years in the making, and I am thrilled to see this project finally getting done.”

Originally planned for this autumn, the Massey’s Ditch Channel Maintenance Dredging Project will cost about $3.6 million. About a third of that will come from Delaware’s Waterway Management Fund, a “lock-box” fund derived from boating fees. It has collected about $2.7 million in its first three years.

Dredging survey still open

Guests can also complete a three-minute survey to help DNREC prioritize Inland Bays dredging projects. Money is tight, but demand is high for dredging, so the Division of Watershed Stewardship is creating a data-based approach to prioritize the proposed projects. DWS staff want to understand how the channels are being used, and how important each activity is to people: boating, fishing, kayaking and other types of work or recreation.

People can rank the importance of ramps, marinas, economics, safe navigability, dredging history and connectivity to the bays.

The goal is “to ensure navigation channels are kept open and safe,” Globetti said. “Once we have collected and analyzed the data for the criteria identified in the online survey, we will develop a scale and weighing factor for each and test the methodology. We will then draft a report with our findings. If successful, we anticipate testing the methodology in other waterways throughout the state.”

People can complete the survey in person or online (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFN5TCQ). It opened for input in the summer, and the deadline is Nov. 30.

By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter