Members of the public aired frustrations at a town hall meeting June 28 related to a proposed management plan for Silver Lake and Lake Comegys in Rehoboth Beach.
Most of the comments expressed a level of concern that the plan doesn’t actually force any government body to do anything to clean the lakes.
Silver Lake and Lake Comegys are two freshwater lakes surrounded by Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and unincorporated Sussex County. The waters of both lakes fall under the jurisdiction of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
At the request of Rehoboth Beach officials, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a management plan, which involved evaluating all the different government codes, existing infrastructure and recommendations on how the four government entities can move forward to make the lakes cleaner.
Scott Sanderson, Army Corps environmental scientist, said the purpose of the report is to provide each governmental stakeholder with an implementation plan. However, he said, it does not include design or construction costs.
“It’s an enhanced playbook,” said Sanderson.
Save Our Lakes Alliance 3 founder and President Sallie Forman said she was disappointed that her organization was not contacted by the Corps at any point in the process to create the management plan.
She said it’s frustrating that the process was started in 2013, and now it's now 2023, but there’s no funding or personnel for a real plan.
Rick Hardy had similar frustrations.
“We’ve been working on this for 10 years,” said Hardy. “How do we actually get this going?”
Hardy was told that the Corps can’t enforce the plan.
Frances Kelleher said there’s a branch of Silver Lake running behind her Stockley Street house that’s missing from the report. It’s basically a wetland with its own ecosystem and lots of animals, she said.
Kelleher said, unlike other cities, another problem is that almost all of Rehoboth’s streets are four cars wide. This means there’s more runoff from the streets going into the lake, she said.
Silver Lake property owner Frank Cooper said stormwater issues are a great concern, but he is also concerned about language related to riparian buffers and what that means for property owners who maintain their properties. He said he would be against anything that would change the beauty of the attraction.
He said this is not Lake Gerar, which is owned in large part by the city and left natural. Right now, as it stands, Silver Lake is not a sewer pit, he said.
Mark Betchkal, who lives in the county portion of Lake Comegys, said the elephant in the room is the issue of stormwater drains. The only way to clean up the lakes is to take them out, he said.
Burke Flickinger said his family has owned property around Silver Lake for nearly 100 years. He said he’s concerned about the government putting extra restrictions on his property. There’s a lot of wildlife without the restrictions, he said.
“We all want what’s good for the lakes,” he said.
Rehoboth property owner Bruce Williams said the Corps needs to update its data because, for example, the map being used has the old Rehoboth Elementary School and its stormwater system.
The draft plan is available at www.nap.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Public-Notices-Reports. Public comments are requested by Friday, July 28. Comments may be submitted by email to PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil.
The final version of the plan is expected to be completed by the end of September.