Don't sell public trust to special interests

June 13, 2013

I would like to respond to Mr. Robert Robinson's view of oyster leasing in Indian River Bay and Rehoboth Bay.  If history serves me, the oyster beds that were so prevalent died out due to disease (dermo and msx) in the 1950s.  It was a natural occurance and not the result of any neglect or inattentiveness by the state, as Mr, Robinson would have us believe.

However, recounting old history is not the reason for my writing.  The point is, and has been, that these two bays in lower Delaware are public trusts, intended for everyone to be able to utilize and enjoy recreationally and commercially. For that availibility, the state has attached various fees and licenses for both recreational and commercial users.

I do not know why Mr. Robinson would insinuate otherwise. If a few very vocal, well connected individuals succeed in changing the law to allow bottom leasing for oyster production, it will start a process of intentional and systematic restriction of acres in the bays that are now enjoyed by many for a variety of activities.  Marked leases will be off limits to anyone boating, fishing, crabbing, clamming, etc., not to mention the navigational nightmare staked leases will have on boaters.

When oyster leasing was first proposed by the Center for the Inland Bays, at Mr. Robinson's request, the program was designed to offer small (one to two acre) leases to a limited number of applicants.  But as usually happens during the course of so many meetings, the leasing discussion morphed into something much bigger for those lucky enough to have a ticket to play. Smaller leases have given way to potentially large blocks to be offered and the opportunity to add more ground to a stake holder's lease was also put on the table. And remember, every parcel that is leased away will be gone for use by the general public.

Those supporting the leasing proposal are only perpetuating a ruse when they claim their main focus for implimenting this program is to improve the quality of the bays. I think the reasons are far more self serving than that. The Center for the Inland Bays needs credibility and validation for its organization (job justification), state representatives who are pro leasing are chasing votes (political climbing), and the original applicants for oyster leasing need a far-reaching change in state law to set up an opportunity for themselves which will not be afforded to the vast majority of local residents.

So ask yourselves, do you want the Inland Bays to remain open for everyone's access or do you want to them carved up and rendered off limits to benefit a select few?  The state of Delaware should never be put in a position of selling our public trust to special interests.

Janet Dorman

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