Flooding, water quality issues require sustainable funding
Earlier this month, a wide variety of citizens spoke at Legislative Hall in Dover in support of the Clean Water for Delaware Act (HB 200). They spoke as activists and experts. But perhaps none was more effective than Aimee Isaac of Rehoboth Beach.
“I’m here today as a mom,” Isaac told the House Chamber. A mother of three, she and her husband enjoyed fishing, crabbing and boating on the Inland Bays.
But in 2016, after her son contracted an outer ear infection, the pediatrician asked if he’d been swimming in the Inland Bays. That was when she learned about the bays’ bacterial contamination. Later, as described in a 2018 letter to the editor, she learned that 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted, and that many communities in Sussex County lack safe drinking water.
HB 200 would provide $25 million a year in dedicated funding for projects to improve water quality and to reduce flooding. It would help repair failing sewer systems and provide conservation funding for farmers.
It’s hard to imagine a more important bill for maintaining the physical and economic health of our state’s residents.
(Who wants to crab and fish in polluted waters? How much is a house worth if it doesn’t have access to clean water?)
For that reason, the bill has lined up 34 sponsors in the House and Senate, including two Republicans.
Sounds like a slam dunk, but it’s not: The top two Democrats in the state are against it, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Gov. John Carney.
Schwartzkopf said at the June 5 hearing that he supports every aim of the bill. But he doesn’t like the way it’s funded.
Carney echoed the speaker’s concerns when he spoke after the hearing to members of the Clean Water Alliance. “What I don’t like about HB 200 is earmarking money to anything,” Carney said.
Delaware relies heavily on the real estate transfer tax. During a recession, such as in 2008, the revenues from that tax “drop off a shelf,” Carney said. When that happens, dedicated funding reduces the state’s flexibility in dealing with tight budgets.
The revenues concerns are real, but so are the problems with water quality and flooding. If we wait to address the problems, they will only grow more expensive to fix later.
Go online to CleanWaterDelaware.org to find out more about the bill and why it’s needed. Contact Gov. Carney and your legislators and let them know you support the bill. Urge them to find a path to sustainable funding. We need clean water to drink. We need projects to reduce flooding.
And moms like Aimee Isaac need to know that a day of what should be safe family fun on the water won’t result in a trip to the doctor’s office.