Rehoboth commissioner seeks answers on Silver Lake dredging

Cleanup efforts continue at Lake Gerar
June 7, 2017

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are plotting a path forward after dredging Silver Lake in Rehoboth Beach, but one city commissioner is looking for answers as to why the project seems to have not come off as advertised.

Commissioner Lorraine Zellers, whose home at Country Club Estates is right on the western prong of Silver Lake, called the dredging work done by Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, “not pretty.”

Zellers shared a letter from Chuck Williams of DNREC saying the department would be working to restore areas on the shoreline at the tot lot, regrading work adjacent to where equipment operated during the lake dredging, and minor excavation work to remove material on the east shoreline displaced by the excavator used in the dredging.

DNREC dredged the western finger of the lake this fall, with the plan to use the spoils to reinforce the lake banks. The sediment removed from the lake is being held in place with biodegradable biologs, and once dried, DNREC plans to install new vegetation. Zellers said the area at the dredging site is a safety hazard; the shore area at the dredging site has been cordoned off with yellow caution tape.

“I can see children in there. I can see dogs in there. The biologs are not stable, they’re spongy. We’ve already seen one kid walking along the edge of the biologs,” Zellers said.

She said the depths DNREC promised before the dredging work have not been achieved.

“We can’t get a boat out there to look to see how deep it is. They were looking at 18 to 30 inches. I would be surprised if you had 6 inches in the middle of the lake,” Zellers said.

She supported DNREC coming forward and publicly addressing the status of Silver Lake.

“It’s a mess,” Zellers said.

Mayor Sam Cooper said he plans to invite representatives from DNREC to speak to the commissioners about the status of Silver Lake.

DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti said, “DNREC continues to look into and consider a path forward for cleanup operations at Silver Lake.”

Sallie Forman, founder and president of Save Our Lakes Alliance 3, said DNREC is monitoring the water levels to determine if additional work will be needed to increase the depth of the water. She said at a city commissioners’ meeting in August, SOLA3 asked if the lake could be dredged by at least another foot.

“The response was that the cost would be beyond what the state could budget.  Since the state has claimed ownership of Silver Lake, the total cost of the project, approximately $125,000, is being paid by the state,” Forman said.

She said DNREC has also told her that the wetland vegetation to be planted behind the biologs cannot be planted until the shoreline has fully dried.

“We agree that if this area presents a safety hazard, DNREC should be asked to provide a solution to protect the public from any harm,” Forman said.

Envirotech plans improvements at Lake Gerar

On Lake Gerar, Todd Fritchman, president of Envirotech, said his company is continuing to treat potential bacteria blooms and control invasive species in the lake’s vegetative buffers. Fritchman said concerns include incessant feeding of animals in the lake since items such as bread have a negative effect on the water quality.

But the main issue of concern is the deterioration of the southwest prong of the lake, the area near the playground at the corner of Lake and Olive avenues. Fritchman said he took sample borings at that corner and found himself in 52 inches of muck.

Fritchman said Envirotech is coming up with plans to increase the depth at that area of the lake. He said the filling in at that corner has been caused by peat forming from sediment, silt and leaf litter. A stormwater pipe runs into that corner of the lake, Fritchman said, and stormwater runoff has been the main cause of silt and sediment buildup.

Fritchman said the leaf litter material could be scooped out, but Envirotech needs to investigate whether that work would require subaqueous lands permits from the state and approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His recommendation was to consider the leaf removal as a stormwater management project and not dredging. Fritchman recommended conducting the project, which would require heavy equipment, in the fall or winter.

Envirotech conducted improvements on Lake Gerar in 2004, which included planting vegetative buffers around the lake and aerators at the bottom of the lake to help prevent algae blooms.

Forman said most of the new problems at Lake Gerar are attributable to inadequate storm drains and runoff from construction. She said SOLA3 stands by its recommendations from the city’s 2010 comprehensive development plan calling for a city-wide stormwater management system and an ordinance requiring individual lots to provide protections from runoff entering the lakes.

“We commend the Rehoboth board of commissioners’ efforts to remedy the problems at Lake Gerar,” Forman said. “But that effort has to be expanded to implement the full CDP recommendations with a plan that will benefit both Silver Lake and Lake Gerar to lessen the negative impact  from human activity, and that will create a comprehensive stormwater management system to protect these lakes from further harm.”



Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter