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Rehoboth’s lakes need stormwater protection

November 15, 2019

Stormwater carrying sediment and other pollutants is steadily degrading Silver Lake and Lake Gerar in Rehoboth Beach. It happens slowly and continually. Night and day, rainfall carries sediment into the city’s stormwater system, much of which empties into the lakes.

Save Our Lakes Alliance 3 (SOLA3) estimates there are at least 40 stormwater pipes emptying into Silver Lake alone. Anyone who questions the impact need only take a look at the western end of the lake from the footbridge leading to the school property. The water is murky and dirty. That may be appreciated by countless snapping turtles and fat carp that await bread balls from passing visitors, but it supports little else.

Help is on the way, however. Officials are considering an ordinance that would require property owners and contractors disturbing more than 2,500 square feet of land to use devices such as silt fences to manage stormwater runoff. Existing state law covers projects of more than 5,000 square feet of disturbance, but many projects in Rehoboth Beach – primarily residential – fall under that limit. Yet they still contribute  to the runoff that degrades the lakes.

Don’t be lulled into thinking there is little construction activity in Rehoboth. A record-setting 31 demolition permits have been issued so far this year, many of them in South Rehoboth, the Silver Lake side of town. Demolition and subsequent new construction both contribute to sediment- and pollutant-laden runoff. The proposed ordinance, a good first step, specifies different ways construction-related runoff can be managed, but the bottom line should be clear: no runoff into the stormwater system or onto adjoining properties. Anyone allowing it to happen should be cited and fined. Enforcement will be key.

The ordinance must also require a runoff control plan to be filed before a building permit is issued.

This issue was raised 10 years ago by SOLA3 and others concerned that the unique coastal freshwater lakes were evolving toward, primarily, stormwater retention ponds. It’s high time for Rehoboth to recognize these lakes as the important natural resource  they are.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.