Flooding problems called black eye for Sussex

Residents demand accountability from council, conservation district
The Sussex Conservation District office is located off Route 113 near Georgetown. BY RON MACARTHUR
December 2, 2013

A question of responsibility surfaced during a Sussex County Council public hearing about bonding authority for stormwater projects.

During public testimony at the Nov. 19 meeting, William Carroll of Bethany Beach said he attended a recent meeting about flooding issues in Long Neck.

“All state officials said flooding was because of inactivity by Sussex County Council and Sussex County had no representative there,” he said. “The greater issue is that when their plans don't work, they blame Sussex County. There has to be better communication between Sussex County and the state.

“The responsibility is being laid at your feet. You have a black eye from the people who live in Long Neck,” Carroll said.

He said if a town such as Dagsboro floods, town officials take responsibility. “When it floods in Sussex County, no one takes responsibility,” he said.

He asked what the conservation district's role was.

District Coordinator David Baird said a clarification was needed as he explained the role of the organization to council.

“We have no formal authority when it comes to drainage. We provide technical assistance to DNREC, and even that is becoming more and more a chore to complete. We fit it in when we can,” he said.

Baird said conservation district staff reviews stormwater and drainage plans submitted by developers and builders to assure they comply with state regulations. The district does not develop the plans.

“It falls back on the responsibility of developers to meet the standards,” Baird said.

“I see more and more problems with drainage and flooding; the system is not working,” Deaver said.

District will administer its own bonds

After the hearing, county council voted unanimously to divorce itself from stormwater bonding authority and turn it over to the Sussex Conservation District, the agency that approves, administers and inspects stormwater systems.

In the past, the county administered one bond for all infrastructure – including sediment control and stormwater management systems.

Under the new system, the conservation district will take over administration of bonds for sediment and stormwater management improvements. Instead of one bond, developers will be required to purchase two bonds – one for the county and one for the conservation district.

“The county has been assuming liability for holding the bonds but did not have control over the work being done,” said assistant county attorney David Rutt during county council's Nov. 19 meeting.

Now the conservation district has instituted a program to administer its own bonds, Rutt said.

Baird said some projects would be exempt: farm structures, commercial projects where the property owner maintains the stormwater features, projects on sites of less than one acre and projects with a value of less than $10,000. The new program is set to begin in January, 2014.

Baird said the district would follow the county's new policy and allow a one-time reduction of up to 50 percent of the total bond as work progresses.


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