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November 15, 2002     Cape Gazette
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November 15, 2002
 

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22 - CAPE GAZE'ITE, Friday, Nov. 15 - Nov. 21, 2002 New director says DRBA is changing course, slowing growth -By Jim Cresson Delaware River & Bay Authority Execu- tive Director Jim Johnson said, Nov. 8, "there is no way we can sustain the growth rate we've had over the last 10 years, so we're slowing down." During a town talk with members of the Lewes Homeowners Association, Johnson explained that the bistate transportation service, widely regarded over the last 10 years as a big-bucks operation with plenty of money to spread around, is facing a new era of belt-tightening and operational ac- countability. "I don't like to criticize what occurred before my arrival on the job," said Johnson. "I just want to say we are learning from our past and building for our future." Johnson did point out that there are three major areas of concern in the DRBA - peo- ple, equipment and capital investments. He noted that over the last 10 years, when the Dredging Continued from page 20 impact of dredging will destroy one of the last natural spots in the area, will cost too much and won't do anything to improve water quality, although supporters say a deeper canal will improve water flow or flushing and help the bays become cleaner. "This canal remains one of the last beau- tiful and peaceful refuges where a canoe can comfortably glide down and enjoy the experience without the hassle and noise of large motorboats. Rather than enhancing the areas, I believe dredging will cause this authority was headed by his predecessor Mike Harkins, employment doubled from 250 permanent employees to 500 with an additional 1,000 temporary employees dur- ing summer. Johnson said employment is the operation's largest line item in the DR- BA's $60 million annual operating budget. All jobs will be reviewed, and cuts may come across the hoard, he said. "We've got good employees; we've got great benefits, but we don't have a great or- ganization," he said. "We have to rebuild morale. We have to reestablish trust and re- spect, and we have to attain accountability. We have to change our mode of operation. We're a public institution, not a private cor- poration." Johnson noted that the authority is losing one top spot as Jeff Lewis, chief operations officer, is resigning Nov. 15 to pursue a business of his own. He will be retained as a consultant on operational issues through I canal and the surrounding area to lose its value," said Theresa Usuld. "What a pity to lose one of our serene places." Wednesday's meeting was packed with boaters who urged the state to move for- ward and issue another permit for the work, which is expected to cost $250,000. That cost comes against a backdrop of a major state budget shortfall and some crit- ics argued that the cost is too high. Chief among them was the former Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Nick DiPasquale. Some supporters argued that the canal should be dug one foot deeper than the planned three foot deep channel at low tide. December. Over the last 10 years, the DR- BA equipment inventory tripled. "We're taking inventory of our rolling stock to see how many cars, trucks and other special- ized vehicles we'll need to keep and how many we can retire," Johnson said. Capital investments quadrupled over the last 10 years. "The amount of growth in that period was rapid, and we're at the top of that growth. We cannot continue at this rate, Johnson asked. "We need to build for the future. We need to fix things ourselves to restore the public trust. We need demon- strated accountable actions." Noting that the DRBA is currently the subject of a federal investigation into a number of perceived improprieties during recent years, Johnson said: "We've had tremendous cooperation with the feds. We do not know what will come from their in- vestigation, but we do know we have a lot of things to fix. We want to eliminate the DiPasquale said the money could be better spent elsewhere and that more marine po- lice are needed for enforcement and a strict no wake policy is needed if the canal is to be dredged. But he stopped short of saying he opposed the project. Tom and Jean Shay worried about boat exhaust fumes filling their home near the canal, two of the few non-Sierra Club mem- bers who voiced concern. The Sierra Club concerns about the canal were sneered at by some in the audience. "I've listened to a lot of the same argu- ments tonight," said Alfred Bucci. "I've heard them. Throughout the whole country we are hearing the same thing. Some kind feeling that this organization is a closed network. We want to be more open to the public ." The DRBA, chartered in 1962 by a com- pact granted by Congress and supported by New Jersey and Delaware, is in the midst of revamping itself, Johnson said. Policies on business travel and expenditures have al- ready been approved. Bylaws are being crafted for the first time. Inner, cultural changes are taking place, Johnson said. "We're making a strong effort to become better." Changes will continue to occur in the au- thority over the next year or two, Johnson said. One thing he promised: no more toll increases on the Delaware Memorial Bridges or ferries are currently planned. The DRBA draws about $79 million in an- nual revenues for the twin bridges. The fer- ry operation loses about $1.5 million annu- ally. of fish or frog is more important than peo- ple." "I learned in business that if you want to kill a project, then what you need to do is to study it. Fish love the water and they will not live on dry land," said Bill Beckett, an obvious reference to the shallowness of the waterway. "This year, even in a kayak, it is not navigable," said Joan Bogdan. Many argued that water quality could be improved by the increased flushing of the canal if it is dredged, a point widely debat- ed among those in attendance. "I have seen needlefish and shiners disappear," said Bar- ry Hutchins. "That is not the sign of a healthy area." COMMUNITY PLANNING FOR OPEN SPACE AND NATURAL RESOURCE PROTECTION All Day Seminar 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. VIRDEN CENTER College of Marine Studies Among the topics and speakers: Dollars and Sense of Growing Smarter Ed McMahon, Nationally Recognized Author and Director, The Conservation Fund, Washington, DC. Planning for Open Space Jim Gibbons, Extension Educator, University of Connecticut NEMO Case Studies in Ecological Planning Jose Aliminana and Teresa Durkin, Principals, Andropogon Associates, Ltd., Internationally Recognized Ecological Planners. Sussex County and Open Space Planning Robert Stickels, County Administrator, Sussex County Open Space Policy as a Component of Livable Delaware Constance Holland, Director, Office of State Planning Coordination A registration fee of $30.00 includes continental breakfast, buffet lunch, refreshment breaks, and seminar materials. ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUESTED BY NOV. 20, 2002 FREE PUBLIC TALK LEWES PUBLIC LIBRARY Monday, Nov. 25th 7:00 p.m. "The Social, Economic and Environmental Benefits of Quality Development." by Ed McMahon Nationally Recognized Author and Director, The Conservation Fund Washington, D.C. For more information call Rita Baty at (302) 645-4346 Sponsors: University of Delaware Sea Grant The Greater Lewes Foundation. Center for the Inland Bays. Sussex County Council Delaware Coastal Programs. Positive Growth Alliance American Institute of Architects - Delaware er National NEMO Network EPA Office of Policy,Economics and Innovation al