Save Our Lakes Alliance3 will ring in its 10th anniversary with a celebration Saturday, Aug. 16.
For founder Sallie Forman, the 10th anniversary was a chance to look back and ahead.
“Looking back at the highlights of our accomplishments, we thought, ‘Wow, we’ve done a lot,’” she said. “There’s a lot more to be done.”
SOLA3, with the three referring to Rehoboth’s three lakes – Lake Gerar, Silver Lake and Lake Comegys – was a case of citizen activism in action. In 2004, Forman, who lives at Lake Comegys, banded with other homeowners to protest three townhouses being built right on the edge of the lake.
“We didn’t think that was a good thing,” she said.
After failing to make much headway with the developers, the community organized to help manage the lakes.
First up was Lake Gerar, which was in bad shape, she said, plagued by pollution and algae blooms. Working with city officials and Envirotech, SOLA3 helped secure a state grant to restore the shoreline with a natural vegetative buffer and install aerators.
Next, SOLA3 moved on to Lake Comegys, where the group lobbied Delaware Department of Transportation to convert an old DelDOT right-of-way into a conservation easement, giving all properties along Lake Comegys a setback from the lake.
Perhaps SOLA3's most important success, Forman said, was that state officials, under the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, have acknowledged ownership of Silver Lake. Forman said SOLA3 pushed hard to resolve the issue of who owns Silver Lake, which for years had been split between Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and Sussex County. Using a 1978 public lands survey researched and presented by SOLA3 attorney Gene Lawson, DNREC acknowledged in February 2013 that it owned Silver Lake up to the shoreline.
Among SOLA3's other accomplishments are the annual lakes cleanup, which have been going on since 2006 and the installation by the city of Rehoboth of two stormceptors, which filter sediment and oils from storm drains, at Stockley and Laurel streets in 2010. Also in 2010, the city restored 425 feet of eroded shoreline bordering Silver Lake on East Lake Drive.
For her efforts, Forman was awarded the Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Leadership Award in 2012 by Gov. Jack Markell.
Mayor Sam Cooper said, “It’s good the lakes have an advocate. They bring awareness of the lakes and the issues surrounding them.”
Cooper said SOLA3 does a good job of providing education, specifically the organization’s annual water quality day at Rehoboth Elementary School, which has been ongoing for six years.
Frank Piorko, director of DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship said, “SOLA3 has really been a strong advocate for establishing a management plan for the lake as well as being helpful with their support for improvements to all three lakes in the city.”
Tickets are still available for SOLA3’s 10th anniversary party, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 16. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Silver Lake dredging on hold
State officials are moving slowly to assert their ownership over Silver Lake, due in part to a lack of funding, said Forman.
Piorko said the department hopes to have the resources in place to address Silver Lake in the fall. Still, DNREC has taken some early regulatory steps to protect the lake.
In a letter to lakefront property owners in December, now-Secretary David Small said DNREC would be applying the state’s subaqueous lands law to Silver Lake, allowing current and existing docks and gazebos to be maintained but prohibiting new gazebos from going up. Small’s letter said DNREC would document and catalogue existing structures on the lake.
Small’s letter also said any property owners claiming land into the lake would be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
Dredging of Silver Lake’s western end is on hold for now as DNREC explores other alternatives, Forman said. Originally, DNREC had planned to pump the dredge spoils into GeoTubes, large bags that slowly filter out water back into the lake while maintaining the spoils. However, DNREC received only one bid that exceeded the state’s project estimate.
Forman said an alternative being explored by DNREC is managing the sediments in the finger of the lake as a wetlands-type area, moving sediment around to create a channel. She said DNREC is committed to improving the health of the lake, but the cost has blocked the department from taking action.
For more information on SOLA3 go to www.sola3.org.