Dredging The Inland Bays

 I have been researching a project of sorts.  Would it be possible to dredge the entire inland bays?  Just the problematic spots, the entire bay areas, and/or just increase the size of the channels to help flush the bays.    Then maintain these after it has been done.    The problem … there isn’t any science to confirm or deny this would be a good idea.   Common sense says it is needed for a number of reasons depending on who you ask.  Economic impact, health, and safety are the main concerns I have heard about.  The other issue is where do you get the money.  

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Sandbars around Massey’s ditch .. Driscoll drones

I have talked to all kinds of people from our administration in Dover, DNREC, State Parks, town mayors, stakeholders, and commercial and recreational anglers (citizens). I haven’t had one person tell me they wouldn’t like to see the inland bays dredged or at least fixed.  I figured Captain Clarke Droney of Tow Boat US Indian River would be the one person to say don’t dredge.  He was the first person to say we need these bays cleaned out and these sandbars gone. 

   Senator Gerald Hocker  “I have been trying to get these projects started for years.  When we dredged Assawoman bay the fish came back because the bay could flush out more.  Now that it has filled back in the fish are leaving.   We have some serious shoaling problems in the canals and bay communities.  We need to identify the problem areas and package them up so to speak for a dredge company to give us a price.  Then we have to stay on top of these projects with maintenance.  Dredging the inland bays is very important to our economy, health, and safety for residents and tourists alike.”     

    Wayne Rogers lifetime resident of Long Neck, grew up on the Indian River and he has seen it change for the worse over the decades.  “We used to be able to walk chest deep into the water in Oak Orchard and see our feet.  Now you can’t even see your hand when you stick it in the water.  The fishing has dropped off dramatically back here and the crabbing.”  Every long time resident of the inland bays I have spoken with have said the same thing.  The inland bays are in serious need of fixing up.  The question is how do you go about that, where do you start, and where do you get the money. 


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Sandbars around Massey’s ditch .. Driscoll drones

There are reports from the Center Of The Inland bays about low to zero oxygen levels in some creeks causing fish and crab kills.  The small creeks and sloughs that drain into the bays are bringing in more pollutants and silt.  Chris Bason Executive Director of the CIB “This has become a serious issue, the bays are shaoling in several areas.  The problem is we do not have any science behind what will happen if say we dredge out a creek and increase the erosion factor.  We just don’t know what will happen.  We definitely need a sediment management program in Delaware like in New Jersey and Louisiana.  We can use this system to help remove sediment from problem areas such as marinas and then put it in places it is needed, the sandbar systems on the beaches for example.  Use slurry to build up marshes like we did at Pepper creek which was very successful.  The bays are flushing out more as of late, but there are areas that need serious attention.” 


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Middle Island summer 2018 shot by Driscoll Drones

  I spoke with the Tunnells owners of Pot Nets in Long Neck “In 2005 we offered Middle island to the State of Delaware if they would rebuild it to a 6 to 7 acre island, its original size, and make it a preserve.  All of that dredge material could be deposited there and kept there by rebuilding the shore line.  We also have areas that we could fill in with marsh slurry and build back up.  The biggest complaint we get from our residents is they have difficulty using their boats.   Large charter boats no longer stay here they all went to Ocean City, Maryland.  We would be happy to work with the state again on any project to fix the inland bays,and Middle Island is still on the block so to speak.  We know that the gas sales have dropped off exponentially at the marinas in our communities and surrounding communities.  People just can’t get here from there, especially at low tide.  This is becoming a serious economic impact for the inland bay communities and beach towns.”   

    Whether you use the inland bays or not, the tourism money they generate is all related to our economy in Sussex county.  Not only is tourism affected by these filled in bays but so is health and safety. 

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Sandbars around Massey’s ditch .. Driscoll drones

 The number one health issue is the bacteria levels on hot summer days.  Vibrio is always present in our waters but will increase in concentrations in stagnant hot water.  When the inland bays and canals silt in they cannot flush as well and the water gets a little “swampy”.  This allows bacteria and algae to flourish which chokes out other life.  It als has created a 24/7 swim advisory for the inland bays.   

   Safety is an issue mostly for boaters.  You hit a sand bar at full speed you will empty your boat of passengers real quick.  The danger of killing someone like this is very real.  Beau Hill owner of Seaside Bar and Grill “We see at least one person tossed out of a boat daily in the summer, and on weekends the numbers increase.  It is a real issue for us as well since our marinas are filling in and we can’t get the boats in here like we used to our gas sales have dropped heavily over the years.  We are mostly catering to the people in our surrounding marinas, since they are here and have issues getting to other places.” 

    I have spoken to a couple of hundred people, and the ones mentioned above are just a few.  They all agree we need to do something.  Several stakeholders are willing to put in their own money for some of these projects.  If you would like to see the inland bays dredged and have any ideas for problem spots.  Contact your state representative and let them know.  I know this issue is on our administration’s radar.  The more input they receive the more we may be able to get these bays cleaned out.

Fish On!

Rich King

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