Letters to the Editor — Jan. 25, 2018

Date Published: 
Jan. 25, 2018

Reader not a fan of offshore drilling

Editor:

As a U.S. and state taxpayer who lives in Sussex County, Del., I am strongly opposed to the 2019-2024 OCS Offshore Oil & Gas Leasing Program.

The economy here relies heavily on tourism; an oil spill here would be devastating. Why is Florida excluded from this program on this basis and not Delaware?

Our environment is dependent on the health of our oceanic border. We already face worsening storms and sea-level rise; we should not be subjected to risks of contamination from oil and gas drilling operations. Development of offshore wind energy is greatly preferred, due to less environmental impact and also to its enduring yield long after oil and gas have been depleted.

The damage to our marine life from building and operating oil and gas drilling facilities is completely unacceptable.

Jeanette Akhter

Selbyville

PTO thankful for support with festival

Editor:

Phillip C. Showell Elementary School PTO would like to thank the following companies and individuals who assisted in making the Fall Festival a huge success. The money raised at the festival directly benefits our students.

Thanks to the following organizations: Zonko’s Builders; Fenwick Floaters; RACC Fitness; Blue Scoop; Cactus Café; High Stakes; Yellow Fins; Todd Brock; Jimmy’s Kitchen; Cripple Creek; Just Hooked; Fox’s Pizza Den; Bank’s Liquors; Lord’s Landscaping; Jayne’s Reliable; Casapulla’s; Elk’s Club; Lobster Shanty; Hocker’s Car Wash; Doyle’s Restaurant; Bunting & Murray; Salted Vines; Lord Baltimore Lions Club; Smitty McGee’s; Millville Pet Stop; Harris Teeter; The River Church; Parson’s Farm; Delaware Provision South; David’s Flowers; Besche Furniture Store; Lego League Robotics Club; Selbyville Fire Company; Barn Hill Animal Preserve; ACE Hardware; Selbyville Community Club; Lord Baltimore Women; Dietz & Watson; VFW; Millsboro Pizza Palace; and Walgreen’s.

Your generosity was greatly appreciated!

Phillip C. Showell Elementary School PTO

Readers weigh in on subdivision proposal

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Mike Boswell, chairman of the Bethany Beach Planning & Zoning Commission, regarding the new subdivision proposal by the Walcek family, in advance of the Jan. 20 hearing on the proposed development. It was sent to the Coastal Point for publication. The excerpt from the Coastal Zone Management Act 16 U.S.C. § 1452 — Congressional declaration of policy (Section 303) mentioned in the letter has been omitted due to space constraints.

The Bethany Beach Planning & Zoning Commission (Commission) is meeting at the Town Hall on Jan. 20, 2018, at 9 a.m., to discuss an application for “the creation of 4 new lots and 1 residential lot, and the relocation of property lines for property identified as Lots 5, 8, 9, and 10, Block 25, Garfield Parkway, in the R-1 zoning district.”

We are providing these comments for consideration by the commission as a resident of Bethany Beach (428 Wiegand Lane) living in close proximity to the Walcek tract and the proposed activity.

The current proposal should also be evaluated in light of the previous projects, both approved and denied. Considering that the land involved in previous actions, Mr. Walcek has had more than ample opportunity to make use of his property. Periodically applying for new uses, piecemeal fashion, is inconsistent with federal policy and regulations, and has had serious deleterious effects, as described in this letter.

We purchased our home at 428 Wiegand Lane in 2009. For the first few years, even during the most severe rain events, we rarely experienced standing water in the street in front of our home.

Subsequently, the unoccupied lot to the south of us was filled with 1-2 feet of material mid-winter one year, to eliminate wetlands covering over 1/3 of the lot, presumably to make the lot easier to sell.

Next, in ca. 2016, the lot to the north of our home was completely filled and a new home constructed. This lot contained a mosaic of wetlands covering 85 percent of the property, wetlands that held water most of the year. Even when surface water was minimal, the lot had saturated soils.

Filling these two properties has caused a major change in the hydrology of the neighborhood. Wiegand Lane floods during light rains now. Water ponds and sits for days. Some properties along Wiegand Lane now have front yards that remain wet and saturated much of the year.

The point of this observation is not to revisit issues associated with the fills described above, but to highlight that by filling any or all of the Walcek tract, our flooding problems will increase exponentially. This will affect property values, the town’s tax base, and adversely affect streets to the point that repair and replacement costs will increase.

If the commission decides to consider this proposal further, a hydrology study should be conducted by an independent entity. This study should include modeling sufficient to understand the impacts of the current proposal, and any potential follow-on development proposals that could flow from approval of the current one.

According to applicable Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, in order to consider using a general permit for the proposed activity, the activity must have no more than minimal effects on the aquatic environment, individually and cumulatively.

Based upon the direct and indirect effects to jurisdictional waters and wetlands associated with this proposal, the individual permit process must be used to evaluate this proposal. General permits must not be used to enable properties to be subdivided and subsequently evaluated separately. Any effort to piecemeal the project is contrary to regulatory policy and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Therefore, should the commission decide to consider this proposal further, they should ask that the Corps evaluate the proposal as a standard individual permit (IP) subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (robust public involvement, alternatives analysis, studies, preparation of an environmental assessment and/or and environmental impact statement). The Corps has the authority and responsibility to require an IP in this case.

It is critical that the commission consider the potential cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment, water quality, flood storage capacity, and community health and well-being. The community has reached a tipping point where additional losses of waters and wetlands are having significant adverse effects on the very important values that led us to purchase a home in Bethany Beach.

We have been coming to Bethany Beach since ca. 1990, and homeowners since 2009. Over that period of time, traffic has increased exponentially, increased nuisance flooding after even minor rainfalls ruins yards and driveways, and open standing water breeds mosquitos and other disease vectors. The adverse impacts to habitat values have been well described by others.

Those effects, in combination with the adverse effects described in this letter, provide more than sufficient justification for denying this proposal, especially since approving it would benefit one individual at the expense of the community and ecosystem.

Another important consideration is compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act, the purpose of which is to preserve, protect, restore and enhance coastal zone resources, like those that would be affected by this proposal. Federal regulatory authorities must ensure that projects proposed within coastal zones are consistent with the Act and any State coastal zone plan developed in accordance with the Act.

The enclosed excerpt from the Act clearly articulates the factors that must be considered as a matter of regulation and national policy.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) developed Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act (DCZA) to protect “vital” coastal resources and ensure their “wise use” and conservation. Factors that must be considered include destruction of wetlands, flora, and fauna; impact on drainage and flood control; water quality; and impacts to surface and subsurface waters.

The commission should consider negative impacts in accordance with the DCZA, economic, environmental, and social.

Traffic on Garfield Parkway is already a problem — approving this proposal will make it worse for residents, tourists, church-goers and emergency vehicles. There are traffic and pedestrian safety issues that must be evaluated for this proposal.

The commission, and the federal government, should explore alternatives to the proposal to fill waters of the United States. Any applicant for a Department of the Army permit must demonstrate that there are no practicable alternatives to proposals to fill waters and wetlands. An alternative is practicable if it is available and capable of being done after taking into consideration cost, existing technology, and logistics in light of overall project purposes.

If it is otherwise a practicable alternative, an area not presently owned by the applicant that could reasonably be obtained, utilized, expanded or managed in order to fulfill the basic purpose of the proposed activity may be considered.

The project proponent has a great deal of work to do to in order to conduct a proper alternatives analysis and document the results. Furthermore, in this case, this landowner has subdivided and developed this property multiple times. Thus, the commission must consider the cumulative effects of this proposal in light of the past and present adverse effects already caused, in combination with and reasonably foreseeable adverse effects that would be caused by additional development.

In summary, it is critically important that the commission and the federal agencies collect sufficient engineering, scientific and economic information in order to make an informed decision regarding this project, and to ensure that if the project is to move forward, impacts will be avoided and minimized to the extent possible, and that compensatory mitigation is required for unavoidable impacts in accordance with the 2008 Joint Corps-EPA Mitigation Rule.

In order for compensatory mitigation to be acceptable, it must address the loss of waters and wetlands based upon a valid functional assessment method, on site or very close to the project location, and in the same sub-watershed.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Charles R. “Chip” Smith and Meg Smith

Bethany Beach