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Lewes, Delaware
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March 6, 1998     Cape Gazette
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March 6, 1998
 

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16 - CAPE GAZE'FrE, Friday, March 6 - March 12, 1998 Jet skis, boating dominate recent water use plan debate By Michael S. hort called jet skis. Efforts to develop a water use plan con- Rich Collins spoke on behalf of boating tinue to slowly steam ahead. Such a plan is in what has become a common feature of designed to balance protection and use of, these sessions. Other members complain Delaware's inland bays. It's a plan that is ex- pected to carefully bal- ance heavy use of the bays by vast numbers of sailors, clammers, boaters and fishermen with protecting the fragile nature of the al- ready stressed water- COLLINS ways. Members of the pub- lic met again on Thursday, Jan. 22, to try to hash out issues relating to the bays as the plan continues to move forward. Much of the debate focused on boating and the use of personal watercraft, often that boating can be one of the major envi- ronmental issues in the bays, while Collins defends boating. Til Purnell said that "boating is very damaging, particularly in shallow water." But Collins cited an Environmental Pro- tection Agency study saying that boat mo- tors have little impact. "They could find no damage," he said. Purnell went on to call for no-wake zones in tributaries. She said that requiring boaters to slow down and not create wakes will slow down erosion of shorelines and of marshes and help protect the tributaries, which are be- lieved more environmentally fragile than the main bodies of water in the inland bays. "We have lost 15 feet of marsh in nine years," Pumell. But personal watercraft, which tend to be a topic in any water use plan debate, were the most common topic. Rob Davis of Rehoboth Bay Sailing As- sociation said that safety is an issue with personal watercraft users. ''They impact everyone else's enjoyment. One jet ski on Rehoboth Bay and you hear it over the whole 12-mile area," he said. Steve Beaston, who operates a marina, said that personal watercraft operators often are not doing anything illegal, but they "just don't know better." He said he has seen personal watercraft users riding in circles in only 2 feet of wa- tel which isn't illegal, but which is proba- bly dangerous. Beaston called for more education for boaters, a common theme echoed by others. Collins said that he seldom sees unsafe boaters and he questioned comments from other members of the public who called for more enforcement by fish and wildlife offi- cers. "I don't like being under the watchful eye of big brother," he said. Collins called for more buoys to mark channels in the inland bays, saying that navigation is difficult and potentially un- safe because the water is so shallow. Others said that crab pots are a problem, because the pots are in navigation channels and because some people leave untended crab pots for long periods of time, which tends to waste crabs and occasionally catch and kill other wildlife, like otters. There was a brief mention of requiring a boating license, but that was opposed by Collins and Beaston and the idea died im- mediately. Efforts to develop a plan will continue and the public is asked to participate. The next meeting is expected to be called within a few weeks. Sea Grant survey says residents devoted to saving inland bays Delaware residents love their inland bays and don't mind show- ing it. A survey of nearly 500 residents by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program showed that the vast majority of those polled are concerned about the bays. The top three concerns of the people, which also included some Maryland and Virginia residents, are water quality, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, and protection of drinking water. Recreation and tourism special- ist for the LID Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service (MAS) Jim Falk said that "while a diversity of peo- ple reside along Delmarva's coastal bays - from farmers to re- tirees - they are united in their concern about the bay's welfare." Falk also found that almost two- thirds of those polled would sup- port paying more taxes or higher prices to finance bay improve- merits. Most respondents favored user fees and voluntary private donations as a means of raising revenue. Fifty four percent fa- vored user fees while 42 percent favored private donations. Less than 20 percent favored personal income taxes or property transfer taxes. "Public concern about develop- ment activity appears to be high- est in Delaware, followed by Maryland and then Virginia, which correlates directly with the rate of growth occuring along Delmarva," he said. "So it appears to hold true that as development increases, so does public concern about the environment. Our hope State DNREC tightens enforcement screws on personal watercraft Delaware may be tightening the enforcement screws on users of personal watercraft. The watercraft are often known as jet skis and the proposed changes by Delaware's Depart- ment of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) are designed to make it easier to enforce safe boating laws. "It will make us more efficient in performance of our jobs," said James Graybeal, the chief of en- forcement of Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife and Delaware State Boating Law Administrator. Graybeal explained that the cur- rent law does not allow officers to give tickets for boating safety vio- lations. Other boaters can be given a voluntary assessment, such as traffic tickets for motorists. The changes would bring per- sonal watercraft in line with other vessels. Currently, users of per- sonal watercraft have to either be taken immediately to court or be given a mandatory court date. They cannot simply be ticketed and mail in the fine. Graybeal said mandatory court dates don't work because many people simply do not show up, especially if they do not live here year-round. It can also be difficult to take people immediately to court be- cause an officer could be any- where on the water, potentially far from his vehicle and to return to a vehicle and travel to court could take hours. He said that the change may not signal a crackdown on boating vi- olations. But he said the change gives agents the tools necessary to do their jobs more effectively and ef- ficiently ...... is that the survey results will be useful to state and county officials and planners in all three states as they develop management strate- gies for Delmarva's coastal bays." Falk said that he found that "82 percent would participate, or are currently participating, in pro- grams to help protect and con- serve Delmarva's coastal bays." Here are some other findings of the survey: 53 percent of those polled said they support candidates based on their record on the environment. 42 percent of those polled do- nated money to environmental causes. 64 percent of Delaware resi- dents polled rated the area's eco- nomic prosperity as good or out- standing. That's much higher than responses from Maryland or Vir- ginia residents. 50 percent of those polled who are Delaware residents rated gov- ernment efforts to protect the bays as good or better (more than Vir- ginia or Maryland). 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