Governor Jack Markell has signed legislation that establishes a dedicated and sustainable funding source for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s waterway management operations.
Sponsored by Senator Gerald Hocker and Representatives Ronald Gray and Ruth Briggs King, Senate Bill 261 allocates increased revenue from the state’s boat registration program to a newly-created Waterway Management Fund for the exclusive support of Delaware’s waterway management operations, as directed by DNREC, to keep channels open and safe for boaters.
“Improving the navigation of Delaware’s waterways supports our economy and tourism, as well as commercial and recreational fishing,” said Gov. Markell.
“With almost 60,000 boats registered in Delaware, this legislation is a critical step toward improving the safety and access of our waterways for the boating public.”
“This legislation is essential in helping DNREC achieve its mission of keeping Delaware waterways safe and navigable for boaters,” added DNREC Secretary David Small.
“The responsibility for dredging and channel marking in federally authorized waterways has fallen to DNREC in recent years, but during an era of challenging state budgets, funding has not kept pace with need. Having a dedicated revenue stream will be a great boost to our waterway management program.”
DNREC estimates the increase in boating registration fees will generate approximately $1.3 million annually.
Priorities for dredging in the state include many channels in the Inland Bays where boating activity is the highest. Massey’s Ditch, connecting Rehoboth and Indian River Bays, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal, Herring Creek, Love Creek and Whites Creek are all in need of dredging.
The Massey’s project is estimated to cost $4 million, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal project is estimated at $2.4 million, and Herring Creek project is estimated at $2.4 million. Planning and engineering costs for Love Creek and Whites Creek are estimated at $700,000.
Due to substantial reductions in federal funding and assistance, DNREC is now responsible for the dredging and maintenance of all but three of the 20 federal channels in Delaware, as well as having responsibility for additional waterway activities, including navigational channel marking and removal of derelict vessels and debris.