Third land use series forum on water held

November 27, 2015

“Water, water everywhere…,” the most famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s iconic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” could well have been the title for the latest in a series of land use forums hosted by the League of Women Voters of Sussex County.

The League’s Oct. 28 forum was actually titled “Drinking Water, Rising Water, Falling Water: Educating the Public for the 2018 Comprehensive Plan,” and featured a panel of four water issue experts who spoke to at least 40 attendees from all over the county.

The forum is a continuation of the league’s efforts to educate the public, and solicit their concerns and vision for the future development of Sussex County.

Brenna Goggin, environmental advocacy manager with the Delaware Nature Society, described her organization’s “Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice” outreach initiative. Goggin stressed the long term impacts of today’s land-use decisions.

Citing the fact that Delaware’s sea level has risen 13 inches over the past 100 years, she suggested that it should be a priority to ensure that the state’s water infrastructure, including sewers, septic system, water treatment plants and drinking water wells, are braced against disruption due to additional sea level rise. Of particular interest in Sussex County is the vulnerability of agricultural irrigation wells, which are the largest users of groundwater in the county.

Jessica Watson, Sediment and Stormwater Program manager with the Sussex Conservation District, discussed the district’s stormwater management program. Since the program’s inception in 1991, the emphasis has been on ensuring that stormwater runoff is directed to recharge areas.

Watson stated that in Delaware, land is never far from a water body, and when land is developed, the potential for impacts to area ecosystems and natural areas is significant.

Her program emphasizes the use of green technologies such as bioswales, rain gardens and bio-retention cells, as well as filter strips and buffers around stormwater retention basins to help minimize the impact of development on nearby water bodies.

Laura Hill, co-owner of Love Creek Poultry Farm, vice chair of the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation and first vice president of the board of directors of the Sussex County Farm Bureau, discussed nutrient management and water runoff prevention measures utilized by Delaware’s agricultural sector.

Hill described her family’s use of “precision agriculture,” which includes science-based measures to help manage nutrient runoff such as GPS technology to optimize the ability of the ground to produce crops without over-seeding or over-fertilizing. Additional conservations measures in use at the Love Creek Poultry Farm include composting, placement of heavy use pads over areas subject to heavy truck traffic to help reduce erosion, and participating in the recycling of manure into fertilizer pellets.

Additionally, she and her family participate in the testing and continuing education requirements of Delaware’s 1999 Nutrient Management Act, through which they stay current with the latest advancements in agricultural technology.

Sen. Bryan Townsend, co-author of Senate Concurrent Resolution 30 which established the Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force, updated the audience on the progress of the task force, charged with identifying and recommending potential funding mechanisms to improve water quality and alleviate flooding in Delaware.

The composition of the task force is dictated by SCR 30, and includes members from state governmental agencies, Delaware’s business community, environmental groups, the Delaware Farm Bureau and other constituent groups. Townsend reported that the task force has met three times, at locations scattered across the state, and anticipates meeting at least three more times.

The initial three meetings have focused on the existing regulatory structure and sources of funding for regulatory implementation. The challenge has been to identify ways to fully leverage the existing regulatory structure for addressing clean water and flood abatement, both of which are of particular importance to the coastal areas and waterways in Sussex County. Townsend remains optimistic that the Task Force will be able to meet this challenge.

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