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Sen. Carper visits Slaughter Beach to detail new water infrastructure bill

Slaughter beach in July 2022.
Paul Kiefer
/
Delaware Public Media
A sand dune on Slaughter Beach.

Senator Tom Carper stopped in Slaughter Beach Friday to detail the potential impacts of the Water Resources Development Act.

The bill, which emerged from the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee — chaired by Carper — and passed in the Senate this week, could bring new opportunities for shoreline restoration in Delaware. It would designate Delaware’s bayshore as a priority area for the Army Corps of Engineers’ restoration efforts and raise the federal government’s contribution to the cost of shoreline repair from 50 to 90 percent.

Former Slaughter Beach mayor Kathy Lock says the bill offers a chance for communities like hers to receive attention previously reserved for beach towns that generate more tourism revenue.

The bill also shifts most of the burden of paying for shoreline restoration projects to the federal government and enables the Army Corps of Engineers to begin repairing bayshore beaches without an act of Congress. The Corps’ last bayshore restoration effort ended decades ago, and Lock says the federal agency has more resources and capacity than the state to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe storms.

“DNREC has come in and done some work, but their work is sporadic, and they have always been limited by the amount of funds they have available," she said. "They were here last fall to make repairs, but the repairs were not timely or complete.”

The bill also earmarks $50 million for wastewater management and clean water access improvements in Delaware alone.

Carper’s Senior Government Affairs advisor John Kane says those dollars could be available through the Army Corps’ environmental infrastructure project.

“For the first time, Delaware will actually be able to have a $50 million pot of money that is authorized by the Corps of Engineers that we can then go get money appropriated for to help projects across the state," he said.

The bill still awaits passage in the House.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.