Governor at podium during press conference

The Clean Water for Delaware Act is Here and We Can Make it Law!

Have you heard the news?  House Substitute 1 for House Bill 200 (HS1 for HB200) was unveiled by Governor John Carney, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride in late January. Yep, that’s a mouthful, but the bottom line is this:  

HS1 for HB200 is the Clean Water for Delaware Act. It will create a Clean Water Trust Fund to address Delaware’s most pressing clean water and waterway projects.

So, where does the dedicated funding in the Trust account come from? Great question, since HS1 for HB200 doesn’t actually provide any funding.

Governor Carney proposed an initial investment of $50 million in a Clean Water Trust Fund in his Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) Bond Bill. The initial funding could leverage millions more in federal funding.

What can be funded by the Clean Water Trust? Funding will go towards:

  • Improving flood resiliency and drainage in our most flood-prone communities
  • Repairing failing sewer pipes and septic systems
  • Improving drinking water quality & expanding access to safe drinking water
  • Removing decades-old pollution from our waterways
  • Conservation funding for Delaware’s agriculture community
  • Low-interest loans and grants for low-income and underserved communities

How will projects be chosen? Do we all get money whenever we want it? The bill will create a seven-member cabinet-level and state legislator committee composed of the secretaries of the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Health and Social Services; Finance; Agriculture and Transportation; as well as the two co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (also called the Bond Bill Committee). The Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee will be required to submit an annual report on the Clean Water Trust funding. They will create a strategic plan containing:

  • A list of goals for the Trust
  • Projects ranked in terms of importance
  • Recommendations on how to help low-income and underserved communities
  • Challenges facing water quality
  • Drinking water priorities
  • A global strategy for clean water including water infrastructure investments beyond what is funded by the Trust account (such as beach replenishment)

Wait, but then what happens to the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council (WIAC)? You really do know your water! Currently, WIAC (pronounced “wee-ack”) provides guidance to leaders throughout the state on project proposals for drinking water and wastewater facilities, funding programs related to drainage, stormwater management and flood control, and watershed-based plans for surface water management. WIAC is not going anywhere.  If HS1 to HB200 passes, they would provide such guidance to the Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee.

But what happens when that money runs out? Exciting news, clean water fans! It technically shouldn’t run out. The money in the Clean Water Trust account will be going into state revolving Funds, which are replenished year after year by interest from project loans.

This all seems great, right? Are you wondering how to make this a reality? There are two big steps to ensuring this becomes reality:

  1. The Clean Water for Delaware Act (HS1 for HB200) needs to become law. First, the bill must pass the House, then the Senate, then head to the Governor’s desk for signature. Follow our social media and sign up for our newsletter to learn as we pass each milestone.
  2. The Governor’s recommended Bond Bill is just that: a recommendation! The initial investment of $50 million for clean water must be approved by the Bond Bill Committee and passed by the General Assembly. It must be debated and signed like any other piece of legislation.

Great news Water Warriors! You can advocate for this innovative plan for clean water funding! There are three things you can do to help ensure the Clean Water Trust becomes a reality this year, and for years to come.

  1. Contact your legislators and let them know you support HS1 for HB200. If you don’t know your legislators, visit the DE Department of Elections website , enter your name and birthday for your voter registration information.  Click on “Districts” and you will see who represents you in the State House and Senate.
  2. Reach out to Delaware’s Bond Bill Committee and tell each member that you want to see the full $50 million earmarked for the Clean Water Trust to be included in the final budget proposal.
  3. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date information and action alerts to learn more about how you can advocate for clean water funding!

Questions about this? Reach a member of our Clean Water Campaign team at any time using our “Contact Us” page!

Environmental Advocacy Starts at a Young Age

As a policy scientist for the University of Delaware Water Resource Center (WRC), I have the opportunity to serve on the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign’s (Clean Water Campaign) steering committee. The campaign, that has a mission to secure dedicated and sustainable funding for improved water quality in Delaware, is mostly focused on adults and the role they can play to advocate for clean water in Delaware. But, through my work with Children and Nature and the Delaware Association for Environmental Education (DAEE), I see the natural connection between teaching children about the importance of the environment around us and their interest in supporting efforts like the Clean Water Campaign as they grow older.

At WRC we work daily to improve and sustain clean water. The WRC’s efforts are clearly demonstrated in the DAEE’s mission to promote environmental education and awareness and the Clean Water Campaign’s work to secure dedicated clean water funding. After all, all three of our organizations focus on improving the environment for generations to come.

Our Clean Water Campaign is made up of an alliance of diverse stakeholder groups including nonprofit organizations, academia and businesses. And if you ask any of them why they care so much about clean water and are willing to be a part of the Clean Water Alliance, they’ll tell you a story of playing in a creek as a kid, an interesting science unit from elementary school, or an overnight camping trip they took at camp. It’s experiences like these that spark interest for years to come.

But, right now in Delaware, according to the State of Delaware Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force, we need to find sustainable funding for the over $100 million annual backlog we have in current “clean water needs” to just meet our state and federal water quality standards.

This backlog will continue to add up if we don’t address this now. Recognizing this, the Clean Water Campaign is working to ensure we don’t leave a bigger “water quality mess” for your students to clean up in 30 years. The Clean Water Campaign has suggested a number of effective funding models to decision makers on every level to decrease this extensive funding gap. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The campaign, and its Alliance Members, have helped secure the most clean water funding in the annual budget ever seen in Delaware history. But the work isn’t over.

The Clean Water Campaign could use your help. Our mission is a natural fit for the DAEE community. In order to ensure an environment, and more specifically clean water, for generations to come we must ensure that Delaware’s formal and informal educators are aware of the clean water issues and funding gaps and efforts throughout the state. Educating our youth to be clean water stewards and to act as water advocates is critical to Delaware’s future. Clean water is essential to just about every aspect of our lives. From the small-scale aspects like taking a shower to its ability to enhance Delaware’s place in our national and global economy, water is important. We must be investing in water now so we have a better Delaware for generations to come.

More information about Delaware’s Clean Water Campaign and becoming a Clean Water Alliance member can be found at https://cleanwaterdelaware.org/.

Martha Narvaez is a policy scientist with University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration Water Resources Center (WRC). WRC is a member of the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Campaign.

Matt Bailey Testfiying at Legislative Hall

A Water Warrior’s Reflection on the Clean Water Rally

It was June 5th2019.  Today was to be my first participation in a lobbying day and to say I was looking forward to it would be a giant understatement.  I would be joining the Delaware Nature Society’s (DelNature’s) advocacy staff, DelNature volunteers and an array of like-minded organizations who have banded together as the Clean Water Alliance.  Today, we Water Warriors were here to show our support for House Bill 200, which, when passed, will provide a reliable funding source for efforts to protect and restore the waters of Delaware.

Participants who registered to lobby were each given a blue t-shirt.  As we gathered on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover, I could see a sea of blue rising.  Representing 34 other state representatives, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst stepped to the microphone, “Clean water isn’t a privilege, it is a human right.”  I added my voice to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.  In addition to state representatives and directors of nonprofits, Collin O’Mara, current president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and former Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), had made time to fly back into Delaware in support of dedicated clean water funding. “I’m tired of having to deliver bottled water to Ellendale and Blades,” he said.  The lobbying contingent from southwest Sussex County shouted their agreement.  I got the feeling that some of those supporters had been needing to bathe in bottled water too long.

Now was the time for the crowd to adjourn to the legislative chambers to hear and give testimony regarding HB 200 (H2 “O” as Representative Longhurst cleverly pointed out).  Well, the time had come for me to make a decision. I held my breath and dove in, I put my name on the list of those who wanted to testify!

I went into the chamber and found one of the last seats. To my surprise, Mr. O’Mara happened to sit right down next to me.  Between his tapping on his smartphone, confirming a flight for an engagement he had in St. Louis later that day, he told me that in the current political climate, it was more important than ever for citizens to get involved in protecting the environment.  He said NWF membership has increased significantly over the past two years. Hobnobbing with the big boys, I replied, “DelNature is glad to be part of that wave, for sure.’  Mr. O’Mara answered that he was glad NWF had an affiliate like Delaware Nature Society in Delaware.

Well, my name was called and as I looked up from the podium I saw a beautiful blue sky of blue t-shirts up in the gallery.  The two minutes of testimony time that had been allotted to each speaker went by quickly, but I did finish in time, whew.

The highlight of the whole day arrived when the Chair of the Natural Resource Committee requested a show of hands on the motion to release HB 200 from Committee.  HB200 passed unanimously!   I don’t think I’ve felt a comparable rush of excitement since the Eagles won the Super Bowl!

This clean water legislation still has an upstream battle in front of it.  But our efforts today have the promise of going from a trickle in a crack in a mountain to a great lake that can ensure clean, safe water for all.

Matt Bailey, a Clean Water Campaign Water Warrior, spent 20 years as a  Wildlife Biologist working with Endangered Species.  He now is pleased to be volunteering with the Delaware Nature Society.

Clean Water Advocates in Washington DC

When Science and Personal Experience Come Together, Decision Makers Are Interested in Our Story

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” – W.H. Auden

As a graduate student studying Energy and Environmental Policy and a research assistant with the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Center, clean water is something that is extremely important to me. From discussing policies that govern our nation’s waterways to collecting water samples for various testing out in the field, I spend a significant amount of time thinking about water-related issues, and I want our local, state and federal legislators to know just how much is at stake when it comes to water quality.  

I was first introduced to environmental issues as a freshman in high school. At the time, a fossil fuel producing corporation invaded my hometown of Dallas, Pennsylvania to explore natural gas reserves. Since my mother dedicated her early adult life to working in a laboratory as a synthetic organic chemist, she was extremely familiar with the volatile organic compounds used in the fracking process. My family and I spent countless hours at townships meetings and zoning board hearings to fight against natural gas development in my small town. After months of pushback from the residents and three experimental wells failing to produce a viable amount of natural gas, the company decided to cut their losses and move onto the next town. However, with the high influx of gas coming from the north, a metering station was constructed close to my high school; and 9.5 miles of additional pipeline was laid to tie into the interstate Transco pipeline. These series of unfortunate events sparked my interest in environmental issues and put me on a future career path in environmental advocacy.

Since starting at the University of Delaware Water Resources Center in September 2018, I have worked on dozens of projects for several local organizations. In addition to completing fieldwork for the White Clay Wild & Scenic River Program, I have worked on a variety of projects for the Clean Water Alliance, Delaware Nature Society, City of Wilmington’s Green Jobs Program, and Delaware’s chapter of the American Water Resource Association (AWRA). For example, in the fall, I completed a semester-long project related to agriculture for the City of Newark’s Source Water Assessment. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, I created a map of all farms in the Newark watershed and labeled them according to crop/animal type, which will be utilized to identify sources of agricultural pollution. My work with the University of Delaware Water Resources Center has allowed me to learn more about local water issues, network with professionals in the field, and work collaboratively with peers to spread the word about the importance of clean water.  

On March 6, I attended a lobby day in Washington, D.C. organized by the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Along with representatives from the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and from across the entire Mid-Atlantic that discussed watershed-wide issues, members of the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Clean Water Alliance spoke specifically on the need for dedicated funding for clean water right here in Delaware. We met with staff from Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Blunt-Rochester’s offices. In addition to thanking them for their efforts in funding clean water initiatives at the federal level, we asked for an increase in funding for programs related to the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River Basin. Lobby day gave me the chance to talk about my research, meet with fellow Water Warriors, and advocate for change within Delaware’s watersheds.   

Often, those in the science field may feel uncomfortable with advocating for things like improved water quality and conservation in general. But, having done it locally in my hometown and now nationally with Delaware’s Congressional delegation, I can say from experience that decision makers and regulators at every level want to hear our story. From the personal reason we joined our field to the fact-based evidence and science we have to back up our requests, every decisionmaker I met with took the time to truly understand why I cared about the issue. I encourage you to consider advocating for dedicated clean water funding in front of our decision makers. If you are unsure on where to start, the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign has a number of resources available and are always willing to talk to meet to discuss why citizen advocacy is so important and how you can make your voice heard in front of those that make the important decisions that affect everything from the water we drink to the ecosystem around us.

Interested in learning more about how to become a Water Warrior and advocate for dedicated clean water funding in Delaware? Contact our outreach coordinators, Laura Miller and Ellie Ezekiel at 302-239-2334 or laura@delnature.org and ellie@delnature.org.

Kelly Jacobs is a first-year master’s student at the University of Delaware and works for the university’s Water Resources Center. She graduated from Lebanon Valley College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics where she started her own Environmental Club and served on the Sustainability Advisory Committee. Her research interests include the relationship between the extractive industry and the environment, water quality, and issues related to environmental justice.

Electric Porsche w Solar Panels

Electric Vehicles and Clean Water: They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Here at the Clean Water Campaign, we are thrilled to bring together over 55 organizations in the Clean Water Alliance. While each organization has a shared goal of improving water quality for generations to come in Delaware, our Clean Water Alliance represents a broad array of businesses, nonprofits and academic interest. Read on in this guest blog post to hear from the Delaware Electric Vehicle Association’s Charlie Garlow on why electric vehicle owners care so much about clean water!

You may ask yourself, what do Electric vehicles (EVs) and clean water have in common? Not only do EVs help clean the air of exhaust, pollutants, and carbon dioxide (the main gas contributing to global warming), but EVs are also a vital part of keeping our water clean. 

For instance, two major environmental disasters were Exxon Valdez and BP Deepwater Horizon. These major spills had, and continue to have, long-lasting effects on water quality globally. But, investing in alternatives such as EVs could reduce the possibility of oil spill catastrophes.

Then, there are the medium-sized spills. LUSTs – or Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – are a term used for the rusty gas station storage tanks that may have been leaking for years, often going undetected, allowing gas to seep into the groundwater. LUSTs can take years to remediate and the groundwater may never return to its pre-spill pristine conditions. But, fewer gas vehicles on the road thanks to EVs could mean fewer LUSTs — which could lower the opportunity for future groundwater contamination thanks to these LUSTs! 

Micro-spills add up, too. As every gas car gets older there is a chance of an oil leak. That’s why drivers check their “dip stick” to check on the oil level. If it’s down, add a quart. That’s another quart that leaked out of the oil pan or somewhere in the engine compartment. Multiply this by millions of older cars and you see how these micro-spills add up. The drips land on parking lots and streets where the next rain will wash much of that oil directly into gutters, streams, wetlands and ponds. Alternatives to fuel-based vehicles reduce the possibility of micro-spills, too. 

Additionally, EVs do their part to mitigate the impacts of climate change which, in turn, improves our water quality. Recent reports identify transportation as one of the largest source of greenhouse gases – exceeding the CO2 emissions from power plants! Considering that climate change impacts like sea-level rise, increase rain events, and flooding, the use of EVs is playing a part in reducing this impact.

You can take action today by joining DEEVA.club, our Delaware chapter of the National Electric Auto Association, purchase an EV vehicle, and help us promote EVs at parades, farmers markets and national, state and local legislative chambers. With questions about DEEVA please contact me at charliegarlow@deeva.club or 301-312-7703. 

Charlie Garlow HeadshotAbout the author:  Charlie Garlow is the President of DEEVA, the Delaware Electric Vehicle Association. A full-time resident of Rehoboth Beach, DE, Charlie is a retired federal attorney. Charlie and his wife, Joan Flaherty, are co-chairs of the Citizens Climate Lobby – Lower DE.  They advocate for a carbon fee and dividend as a principle way of reducing carbon emissions. For more information on DEEVA, please visit deeva.club.

The Word Budget Written On A Whiteboard

Delaware’s Budget Process: Part 3 – The Bond Bill. What is That?

The following blog post is the third in a series of “Delaware’s Budget Process” blogs authored by the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign. This blog series provides a roadmap for how Delaware’s budget process works and why it’s so important for our Water Warriors to get involved! To learn more about how the budget process begins in Delaware, please see the first and second post in our series!

If you remember in our last two posts in this series, we detailed how Delaware’s budget process is a bit complicated but at its core, it isn’t much different from how you plan your own household budget. You make a plan, you edit the plan, you run the plan by your family members, make more edits and then finally agree on the plan.

The process for the state begins with Governor John Carney proposing a budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). Then, a body of lawmakers called the Joint Finance Committee reviews the operational portion of the budget, making changes, additions or deletions along the way. This is now complete and the next stop for $10 million in clean water funding, $10 million in open space funding and $10 million in farmland preservation funding is for theJoint Capital Improvement Committee, commonly called the “Bond Bill Committee,” to review the budget and send to the entire legislature for review, proposed changes and a vote.

The Bond Bill Committee, made up of 6 State Senators and 6 State Representatives, appropriates funds for major and minor state-funded capital improvements. This year, they will hold public hearings with each state department and state agency the first week in April. Similar to the Joint Finance Committee, Bond Bill Committee members weigh the financial needs of all the agencies and departments and ultimately work towards creating a fiscally-sound budget that addresses our state’s biggest capital improvement issues.

During this process, the committee will study the proposed $10 million in open space preservation,$10 million in farmland preservation and $10 million clean water funding.It will decide if the proposed appropriations should remain funded as the Governor suggests, be re-directed to another more pressing issue, or diminished to meet a funding gap elsewhere. Then, the committee ultimately presents a final budget to the full legislature for a vote at the end of June.

It is imperative the Bond Bill Committee hears from you and knows this funding is essential to our environment, economy and health! Delaware’s water quality is one of the biggest issues facing our state; but also an issue where capital improvements can make a HUGE difference to so many facets of our everyday lives.

 

How can you help?
As a Water Warrior, we are asking you to participate and offer comment during this Bond Bill process.

There are a number of ways you can do this!

  1. Attend the Bond Bill Committee’s April 4, 9:30am public hearing in Dover: This is the scheduled hearing for all capital improvements related to Delaware’s natural resources, including open space preservation, farmland preservation and clean water funding. We encourage you not only to attend, but to provide brief (limited to 2 minutes) testimony on why this funding is important. For talking points, click here. For a full schedule of the Bond Bill’s scheduled hearings, click here.
  1. Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper in support of this funding. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to draft and submit a letter!
  1. Write a letter or email to the members of the Bond Bill Committee asking them to support open space, farmland preservation and clean water funding. We’ve provided talking points and the email addresses for each committee member here!
  1. Show your support on social media! Use this link to find sample social media posts and images for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The fight for clean water funding doesn’t stop at the Bond Bill Committee. Throughout June, the entire legislature will review and consider changes to the state budget. So, please join us on Tuesday, June 4 as we celebrate the amazing role that water plays in each of our lives and help advocate for healthy waters throughout Delaware at our new and improved 5th Annual Clean Water Rally – our biggest lobby day of the year! We will let legislators know why clean water is essential. Then, we’ll follow up this year’s Rally with a Water Celebration and Post-Rally Happy Hour at Fordham and Dominion Brewing Company. Join us for FREE food from a local food truck and numerous guest speakers who are ready to celebrate the progress that we have seen over the past five years! For more on this,  click here!

Want more updates like these? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest on the campaign and all things related to clean water in Delaware! 

 

Delaware’s Budget Process: Part 2 – The Joint Finance Committee

The following blog post is the second in a series of “Delaware’s Budget Process” blogs authored by the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign. This blog series provides a roadmap for how Delaware’s budget process works and why it’s so important for our Water Warriors to get involved! To learn more about how the budget process begins in Delaware, please see the first post in our series!

If you remember in our last post, Delaware’s budget process kicks off with Governor John Carney proposing a budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020), which begins July 1, 2019 and runs through June 30, 2020. After writing the budget, the Governor introduces it to the public by addressing Delaware’s General Assembly (the state legislature) in his budget address. This budget address often occurs near the Governor’s State of the State address; but differs from the State of the State address as it is solely focused on financial issues.

Great news! Governor Carney gave his budget address on January 17, 2019 and included $30 million for conservation funding! The Governor has proposed $10 million for open space preservation, $10 million for farmland preservation and $10 million for clean water investment! Though the Governor has warned that today’s fiscal climate requires cutting the overall FY2020 funding from where it may have been last year and ensuring the state has funding in reserves, he did not cut this conservation funding! This is, in large part, thanks to your calls, emails, meetings and letters with the Governor! THANK YOU!

Now that the budget address has occurred, the legislature will review, and possibly modify, the budget. We have to keep this positive momentum going by urging the legislature to keep the full $30 million in the finalized and approved budget for FY2020!

The first body of lawmakers to review the $30 million conservation funding is the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). The committee is made up of 12 legislators: 6 members of the Senate Finance Committee and 6 members of the House Appropriations Committee. The JFC is responsible for writing the state’s operational budget, proposing how much grant funding the state may give nonprofit organizations, and providing how much money legislators can consider spending on capital improvements. The budget the JFC pulls together is then considered and voted on by the full state legislature.  So, it is incredibly important the JFC knows Delawareans support $30 million in conservation funding and do not want to see that number decreased.

Take Action!

Write, email or call to the JFC Chairs (Representative Quinn Johnson and Senator Harris McDowell) and, if possible, the entire JFC Committee, to ask them to support the full $10 million for open space funding; $10 million for farmland preservation funding and $10 million for clean water investment in the final FY2020 budget.

For more talking points and for the full list of Joint Finance Committee members, please click here.

If you have any questions or need further information on how to make your voice heard, don’t hesitate to contact us at laura@delnature.org – we’re happy to help!

Stay tuned as we keep you up-to-date on the budgetary process and provide easy ways you can participate in the months ahead!

Delaware’s Budget Process: Part 1 – Where It All Begins, The Governor’s Budget Address

The following blog post is the first in a series of “Delaware’s Budget Process” blogs authored by the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign. This blog series will provide a roadmap for how Delaware’s budget process works and why it’s so important for our Water Warriors to get involved!

New Year, New Budget! Government services such as schools, social services, law enforcement and our state parks all require money – so they all require a budget! The same process you might go through right at your kitchen table for your household budget is not too different than the State of Delaware’s process. But it can be confusing with all the jargon and extra steps. Consider this your go-to tool for Delaware’s budget process!

In Delaware, when the governor gives his budget address each January, he kicks off a 5-month process that includes reviews by two legislative committees: The Joint Finance Committee (which reviews operating funds like payroll, pensions and benefits, and rent) and the Joint Capital Improvement Committee, commonly called the “Bond Bill Committee,” (which reviews funds for capital improvements like sewer infrastructure, parks, and building upgrades). These committees then come together to present the year’s budget to the legislature for approval.

On January 17, 2019, Governor John Carney will be giving his budget address for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020), which encompasses July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. The budget the governor will propose provides a strong framework for the General Assembly (Delaware’s state legislature) to work with when crafting and eventually passing the budget for FY2020 — so it’s incredibly important Governor Carney knows funding for clean water is a priority for Delawareans!

Last year, Governor Carney proposed, and the General Assembly approved, $10 million for open space preservation; $10 million for farmland preservation. Thanks to your advocacy efforts we were able to increase the investment for clean water from $6 million that was recommended by the Governor’s budget to $10 million.  This was the first time in years open space and farmland preservation received full funding; and the first time in decades funding for water quality improvements was increased. It was thanks to your calls, emails, meetings, and letters that ushered this very important funding across the finish line. And with Governor Carney crafting his budget address for FY2020, we need to keep this momentum going into the next fiscal year!

Take Action!

Write a letter, send an email or make a call to the Governor’s office asking him to support full funding ($10 million each) for open space, farmland preservation and clean water investments in his FY2020 address. We’ve provided talking points and the Governor’s contact here.

If you have any questions or need further information on how to make your voice heard, don’t hesitate to contact us at laura@delnature.org – we’re happy to help!

Stay tuned as we keep you up-to-date on the budgetary process and provide easy ways you can participate in the months ahead!

Water Warrior Programming Featured by CDRW!

This Fall, our Water Warriors joined Alliance Members Urban Bike Project and the University of Delaware Water Resource Center in collaboration with the City of Wilmington Office of Economic Development for “Wheels for Water.” The cycling tour, which showcased the City of Wilmington’s most prominent water features and latest water projects, was recently featured by the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) in their blog.

Click here to read more about our event and a big thanks to CDRW for including us in your work to protect and restore the Delaware River Basin!

Interested in our Water Warrior programming? Stay tuned to our blog and visit our website as we announce our 2019 Water Warrior program! Don’t want to miss out? Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about all things going on with our campaign, including events like these!

Friends of Bohemia Board Members

Member Spotlight: Friends of the Bohemia

The thing we love the most about our campaign are the people we meet and the amazing organizations we get to work with regularly. One of those organizations is Friends of the Bohemia. Chuck Foster, one of the most passionate watershed advocates we’ve ever met, sat down with us recently to give us the scoop on everything we want to know about Friends of the Bohemia. Read on for the interview!

(Psssst…Chuck mentions some really great ways you can volunteer and get involved with one of the coolest groups we know, so pay attention. 🙂 )

When we mention “Bohemia” to our friends and followers, they often think of adventurers, artists, and wanderers. We know you’re adventurous, but what is the Friends of the Bohemia all about?

Friends of the Bohemia is an all-volunteer nonprofit watershed improvement association incorporated in 2015.  We are all about bringing together everyone who lives, works or plays in our watershed to work in a spirit of fun and cooperation to help each other keep our beautiful river beautiful.  The name Bohemia was given to our river by Augustine Herman, who came from that part of Eastern Europe.  Augustine was commissioned by Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert, to make a map of the Chesapeake Bay.  As part of the compensation for the map he produced in 1670, Herman was given his choice of any land he wanted.  After seeing and charting the entire Chesapeake Bay, he selected the most wonderful location he had encountered and named it “Bohemia Manor” after his homeland. So clearly, our river is the most beautiful spot on the entire Bay!

We hear the Bohemia River begins in a Walmart parking lot in Middletown. Is this true? And why should Delawareans care about what pollution lands in that parking lot?

It is true!  I love to tell people that fun fact because the word “headwaters” always seems to conjure up an image of a sparkling clear mountain stream in most people’s minds.  Kind of like the TV commercials we see for bottled water. The reality is that lots of waterways begin in a densely populated urban setting. Pollution, such as petroleum products, running off of the hard surface of a parking lot goes right into a waterway without having a chance to slow down and soak through layers of soil that filter it before it reaches the water table, or before it can get absorbed and used as fuel by native plants.  Clean water is important to everyone.  Even if you can’t see the larger part of the river from where you are, what folks do anywhere in the watershed makes a difference to our community and our quality of life.

What do you think are the top three ways to enjoy the Bohemia watershed? 

Sunset Over Bohemia RiverKayaking is one of my favorites, but all manners of water-related recreation is popular…sailing, motor boating, skiing, tubing, fishing, and chasing the most delicious blue crabs ever.  Every Wednesday evening, the river is the site of a sailing regatta that provides dinner-time entertainment from the shore line.  Personally, just staring at the water brings me joy.  There is nothing like watching a beautiful sunset over the Bohemia.  It is great fun to observe the birds…osprey, eagle, Canada geese, ducks, great blue heron, crow, purple martins, finches, humming birds and many more varieties, as they go about their lives, raise their young, and compete with each other for fish, other food and territory.  Marvelous!  We also have a wide variety of plant life in our watershed, including the beautiful but rare American Lotus.  We purposely located one of our water quality sampling sites directly across from the cove where the American Lotus grow so we can observe and enjoy them.

You mentioned to us that you spent nearly every childhood weekend on the Bohemia. What’s your best memory growing up here on the Bohemia River Watershed? 

My favorite memories are of a river teaming with life and water so crystal clear that you could skin dive with a mask and snorkel and see the fish. It was easy to see the river bottom, even if the water was six feet deep. Amazing!  There was so much aquatic grass that we had to pull up a narrow swath to get our little boat out to the deep water.  I’ll always treasure family gatherings to feast on crabs and float around on old truck tire inner tubes on a lazy summer day. Most of all, I remember the sense of freedom and connection with the natural world that I experienced here.  Of course, my parents were WAY less anxious about my activities and whereabouts than I and my generation of parents seem to be!  That was a good thing.  I survived.

Where can Delawareans access the Bohemia River? What is the most convenient launch point for Middletown-area residents? 

Kayakers on the Bohemia RiverRight now, public access is pretty limited.  There is a launch point for paddle craft at the northwest corner of the Bohemia River Bridge on Maryland Route 213 (Augustine Herman Highway!).  There are also several commercial boat ramps available at the marinas that dot the river.  BUT…stay tuned for the opening of Bohemia River State Park!
The Maryland Park Service has recently acquired a 460 acre parcel on the northeast corner of the Bohemia River Bridge and is in the planning phase of developing a new park!  This will be a great place for folks from the Middletown area to come picnic, launch paddle craft, walk the trails, see the wildlife, participate in educational programs, and more.

Can you give us a few examples of the ways Friends of the Bohemia are improving our water quality here in DE? 

Friends of the Bohemia has mailed Water Quality Report Cards to over 5,000 Delaware postal customers for each of the last two years to increase public awareness of water quality issues and provide folks with concrete suggestions for ways they can help. We have worked with the Delaware Clean Water Alliance to support legislation and funding that encourages clean water in the state.  We have also been closely monitoring the Route 301 bypass project that runs directly through our watershed.  The Delaware Department of Transportation has a highly engineered system of stormwater management and has been working hard to minimize the impact that exposed dirt has on the waterways.  Unfortunately, it is a difficult proposition for a project of this scale, but silt fences and other measures are regularly reviewed for compliance with environmental requirements.  Friends of the Bohemia will once again be participating in the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Clean Up initiative on September 15, 2018.  We are scouting out a site in Delaware and are approaching land owners for permission to pick up the trash that would otherwise find its way into the water.  We are also actively seeking a couple of water quality sampling sites in the Delaware portion of the watershed.  This would be a great enhancement to our program and we’d love to get some more Delawareans to join our team of water quality samplers.  No experience is necessary and no background in a scientific discipline is required.  It is a lot of fun and we have a great team of folks in our Science Subgroup.

You recently held a report card unveiling. Can you tell us about the report card and the event?

On June 14thwe pulled the wraps off our 2018 Water Quality Report Card.  Broken Spoke Winery in Earleville, MD provided us with a beautiful setting, purveying their wonderful wines, serving delicious food and creating a most comfortable, inviting atmosphere.  That’s a good thing because the River’s report card grade slipped from a B to a C+ this year.  Just like those Report Card Days of our youth, we were a little nervous about how that would play out with our audience…sort of the same way we were nervous about our parents’ reaction.  Gulp.  About 60 people were on hand to learn about Friends of the Bohemia’s findings, and our head scientist, Rebecca Wright, did a great job of explaining what we did, what we found, what it means, and what people can do to have a positive impact.  As it turns out, while most of the parameters we test were either stable, improving, or just slightly worse than last year, our overall grade was heavily impacted by the significant decline in the amount of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) in the watershed.  The Bohemia was not alone in this regard.  Despite the overall improvement in SAV coverage enjoyed by the Bay as a whole, our section of the Bay Watershed suffered a decrease in acres containing aquatic grass.  The reasons are still under study, but spikes in salinity may have been a factor.  High salinity levels damage the root systems of the fresh water grass species in our location.  The good news is that the Bohemia River still enjoys a very wide variety of aquatic grass species.  Friends of the Bohemia will be hosting an SAV workshop very soon where we’ll wade into the river and verify the findings that the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has developed from their sophisticated aerial photography.  The take away message from the presentation was that we all need to keep doing whatever we can each do in our own sphere of influence to reduce the impact of human beings on the natural environment.  The more we can help each other with that, in a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation, the better.

Rebecca’s talk was followed up with a wonderful presentation by the Maryland Park Service.  Rangers Lesley Leader and Rachel Temby were on hand to describe the development of the new Bohemia River State Park and answer questions from the audience.  The group was keenly interested in this topic and seemed to come away excited and energized about this future asset.  What a lovely setting the park will provide for recreation and education!  The Park Service is doing a great job of seeking input and carefully balancing all of the various factors that come into play.

All in all, it was a very successful event and we made a few new “Friends!”

Your community of members are so welcoming. What do you think is one of the most interesting or fun details of your membership and the community you created?

We really enjoy each other’s company and there is a great deal of humor in the group vibe. People often notice the “I’m a Bohemian” slogan on the back of our T-shirts and that starts a conversation.  We embrace diversity in the group and that brings a wonderful exchange of ideas. One thing we all have in common, though, is an absolute love for our river and our community.

Why should a Delaware resident be interested in joining your organization? 

Volunteer with Friends of Bohemia Watershed AssociationDelawareans want clean water too!  What the folks in Middletown do in their back yards makes a difference to the watershed, whether or not they can see the main body of the Bohemia from where they stand. We are all part of the same community and joining Friends of the Bohemia is a great way to meet new people with common interests.  Volunteering your time, for example, at one of our clean-up events or on one of our water quality sampling teams, is very rewarding.  You’ll be doing your part to make a positive difference in the world around you.  Joining us will also help keep Delawareans aware of happenings in their state. Our association with water-friendly organizations in Delaware can help make our collective voices heard on important issues.

If people are interested in learning more about Friends of the Bohemia, how can they best get in touch with you? 

American Lotus in Bohemia RiverOur website is a great place to start:  www.friendsofthebohemia.org.  On that site you’ll find a wealth of information about what we do and how you can get involved.  There are links to other sites that delve deeper into topics that tweak your interest, and there is a Calendar of Events that we keep updated with the latest information on our happenings. We love to have visitors at our monthly board meetings and folks can email us at friendsofthebohemia@gmail.com, or call 443-566-3513 if they have any questions.