The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will hold a public meeting at 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, in the Rehoboth Elementary School auditorium to discuss state ownership of Silver Lake and a management plan going forward.
Deputy Secretary David Small said the meeting would feature a brief history of the state's ownership of the lake and solicit feedback from lakefront property owners and citizens. He said he expects officials to hear a wide range of opinion, from people wanting the state to take a very active role in managing the lakes to those who would prefer the state do nothing.
In February, the state asserted ownership of Silver Lake and Lake Comegys, based on a 1978 public lands survey. In a letter from Small to lakefront homeowners, Small said, “We believe this settles a decades-old question about responsibility for these unique waterways but raises many other management issues moving forward.”
Because the state owns the lakes, management of them now falls to DNREC. Small said the department is still working out legal issues, but is now set to move forward. He said DNREC plans to settle issues with lakefront property owners who claim land into the lake on a case-by-case basis. Research by Rehoboth Commissioner Patrick Gossett found 48 residents whose properties directly abut Silver Lake, but it is unknown how many claim land into the lake.
During the meeting, DNREC plans to discuss state ownership of the lake, management objectives, public access, individual lot ownership issues, an update on Silver Lake dredging and next steps.
Sallie Forman, president of Save Our Lakes Alliance3, said, “We are pleased that DNREC will have an open dialogue on Oct. 5 on the ownership issue. The meeting will present an opportunity for owners who claim they own part of the lake to provide legitimate evidence to substantiate their claims.”
Resolving the issue of who owns Silver Lake and Lake Comegys has been a project since 2004, and Forman said the state claiming ownership was SOLA3’s most significant accomplishment since its founding. She said the decision is huge in that the state, through DNREC, is responsible for the long-term protection and management of the lakes.
“It is our hope that DNREC’s management will bring improvements to the lakes, as well as consistent and equitable authority managing the shorelines,” Forman said.
She said she hopes the meeting will provide a better understanding of how DNREC will use its authority over the lakes, and whether the department has other projects in mind for improving the lakes.
Small said he hopes to use the feedback from the meeting and solidify the state’s position and formulate a management plan.