There is an answer to dredging dilemma

May 24, 2014

I attended the May 13 meeting at the Millville Fire Hall about channel marking and dredging on Delaware’s Inland Bays or the lack there of. The main reason stated by officials for this dilemma is the lack of funding.

The Shoreline and Waterway Management section of DNREC is responsible for maintaining and dredging our state waterways, yet they do not have a direct source of revenue for achieving this.

Instead they have to wait every year to receive what extra money the state can send their way. This makes it nearly impossible to do long term planning and opens the agency up to the whims of politicians and their pet projects.

Discussed in the meeting were several ways of achieving an annual source of revenue specifically for this division, separate from the state general fund and solely for dredging and maintaining our waterways. It was estimated that $3 million was needed annually. Sen. Gerald Hocker suggested allowing marinas to sell ethanol free fuel, but keep the tax already in place as a revenue source. Rep. John Atkins suggested a toll road somewhere on Route 404.

Other suggestions included some sort of waterfront property tax or perhaps a dock tax added to the permit process. All of these suggestions are viable but not practical, as they all would be hard to track the funding; the funding would fluctuate and not be very reliable for setting an annual budget; some plans would penalize non boaters, meaning no support; and all would take years to establish, if ever.

I am proposing adding a fee to the existing Delaware Boater Registration law. There are many benefits to this proposal. The system is already in effect, it would be a fairly reliable source of income, easy to calculate, easy to implement and as the history of registered boats in Delaware shows this source should continue to grow especially as more people move to our state.

There are currently 60,000 registered boats in Delaware up from 17,000 in the 1970s, according to DNREC.

The current fee system per year is:

•Boats less than 16 feet, $10

• Boats 16 to 26 feet, $20

• Boats 26 to 40 feet, $30

• Boats 40 to 65 feet, $50

• Boats 65 feet and over, $60

These fees are relatively cheap in comparison to other states. If we add $5 dollars to boats less 16 feet, $10 to boats 16 to 26 feet and $15 to boats over 26 feet, we get a substantial amount of revenue. The revenue generated from this proposal may not be enough for the whole annual operating budget for the Shoreline and Waterway Division but it would guarantee a large portion and with some tweaking of the numbers it may be enough.

Now before you naysayers jump all over this proposal because of another fee, let me inform you that I own two boats and I am very aware of the cost involved in owning boats. I currently pay $30 for the one and $20 for the other to register. Under what I have proposed I would be paying an additional $25 a year, most would be paying an additional $5 to $10. This is a relatively small amount to pay to insure that we can continue to enjoy boating in a safe and reliable way. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be dependent on the tides to plan my excursions.

The only people that are going to pay for the dredging are the people it affects and they are boaters. If an additional $5 to $15 is too much money for you, then perhaps you should sell your boat, as you won’t be able to get out of your creek soon if nothing is done. However, if you're realistic and support this proposal, I urge you to contact your elected officials and tell them that this plan is the best solution, the most simple and the most expedient way to solve this problem, also tell them that the additional fee must be used for dredging and channel marking only. I hope an elected official will use this proposal to draw up a bill and get it passed now, so come January 2015 the Shoreline and Waterway Division will have some estimate of the funds at their disposal (no pun intended) an plan accordingly.

Capt. Tom Fowler
Bethany Beach

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