Rehoboth must act to protect Silver Lake

January 15, 2013

While Rehoboth Beach and state environmental officials put off deciding who owns Silver Lake, a new dock has appeared at the lake’s edge. There are plenty of properties that already have docks along the lake; a dock with gazebo is an iconic image of South Rehoboth. One more dock is not likely to destroy the beauty of the lake.

But what’s next? While city and state officials continue to wrangle over who owns what, uncertainty reigns.

That uncertainty over legal jurisdiction of the lake and its shore will only prompt property owners to build – sooner rather than later.

And why not? The problem is not property owners trying to make the most of their investments; the problem lies with state and city governments that for years have failed to establish clear lines of ownership and a no-build buffer to protect the lake.

Silver Lake, Lake Gerar and Lake Comegys might look, to some, like nothing more than stormwater retention ponds, but nothing could be further from the truth. These lakes are rare environmentally: they are the only freshwater lakes in Delaware and the freshwater lakes closest to the ocean along the East Coast.

Silver Lake, which in the early 1800s was connected to Lake Comegys, is also historically important: local historian Warren MacDonald has written that in Colonial days, ship captains knew Silver Lake as a handy place to secure fresh water.

As property values throughout the Cape Region rise, pressure increases on property owners to maximize their investments. We’ve already seen a new house rise at the water’s edge, and now a dock is going up that its owner says is in accordance with the existing moratorium.

City officials should take immediate action to protect the lake and claim jurisdiction over lands surrounding it. A 10-foot moratorium proposed by the planning commission should be seen as a minimum; the current 15-foot no-build zone would promote a wider, more protective buffer.

City officials should also assert ownership of public rights of way to ensure that the public will always enjoy views of Rehoboth’s beautiful and historic resource: Silver Lake.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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