Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, would like to let constituents know that the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control wants to hear from the boating public to find out if they have been experiencing problems with navigating the waterways at Indian River and Massey’s Landing in Long Neck.
According to DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship, state officials have been receiving communications from boaters, marina and business owners, commercial fishermen and general waterway users about the concerns regarding channel navigability. DNREC officials are encouraging members of the public to contact the division directly if they have had similar problems with navigating the channel in the area.
DNREC stated that the division remains in constant contact with the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers “to try and gain assistance in these problem areas with marking and possible dredging.” The division also says that by asking the public to contact them directly with firsthand information about the trouble spots, they will be able to provide water users with the “best possible navigational assistance,” while continuing to advocate for “adequate funding” for their waterway maintenance program.
Boaters and recreational fishermen have been experiencing problems with getting in and out of the channel over the past several years. Even though the severe storm events last season may have contributed to the channel problems, DNREC says that the department has known for several years about the navigability challenges in Massey’s Landing.
Massey’s Landing, also referred to as Massey’s Ditch, and Indian River, from the inlet to Millsboro, are federally authorized waterways. DNREC states that, as such, it is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain navigable depths in these channels and the responsibility of the U. S. Coast Guard to place aids to navigation to adequately mark these waterways. Since the 1980s, the corps has been unable to dredge either Massey’s Ditch or Indian River because of the lack of federal funding for recreational boating purposes. DNREC has stepped in and dredged Massey’s five times with the last project being in 2002. In addition, DNREC has dredged Indian River six times with the last project being in 2007-08.
According to Chuck Williams with the Division of Watershed Stewardship, “We know both waterways are in need of dredging. Like the corps, we need adequate funding to do the work. We requested funding from the Legislature last year to dredge Massey’s Ditch and Indian River, but did not receive any [state money for the project]. We have a similar request in this year’s budget for the same. Once we receive the necessary funding, we will move forward with planning the projects and contracting to dredge the channels.”
Williams also said, “In the absence of dredging, we have worked with the Center for the Inland Bays to establish an alternate channel east of Massey’s Ditch to provide boaters with a safer route from Rehoboth Bay to Indian River Bay. We have also worked with the Coast Guard to relocate buoys in both Massey’s and Indian River when needed. Last month, we worked with a local marina manager and the Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team to place channel markers near his marina in Massey’s Ditch in an effort to provide boaters with safe passage to and from the facility for this boating season. We are currently working with the Coast Guard again in an effort to relocate channel markers in downstream Indian River to ensure boaters using the channel avoid a heavily shoaled area.”
Anyone interested in sharing with DNREC a concern about issues relating to navigability is asked to contact Williams at 302-739-9921.
Briggs King is planning to tour Massey’s Landing and the channel conditions Monday, June 17, with DNREC officials. She stated, “I will be taking a boat ride in order to review the channel conditions in Long Neck. I appreciate the opportunity to tour the area with DNREC and see, firsthand, the kinds of challenges that boaters and recreational fishermen have been experiencing in the area.”