Authors of a plan to detoxify Delaware’s waterways say they’re hoping to release their report later this month, which is expected to include a proposed statewide tax hike.
A draft report released by the Clean Water Task Force last year floated a $45 annual fee on people collected through their state income taxes. Businesses could pay more.
State Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) co-chairs the group. He says residents, tourists and anglers can’t wait decades for a solution as the state chips away at $100 million worth of backlogged projects.
“Sooner or later our water quality issues are going to cause big problems, so we’ve really got to have a dedicated revenue stream that can be bonded and leveraged and clean up our waterways," said Townsend.
"We have the technology, we just need the money.”
More than 90 percent of First State rivers, lakes and lagoons are unfit for swimming and fishing – and most of them are even inhospitable for animals.
DNREC Secretary David Small called that fact embarrassing during a state budget hearing Thursday, saying, “Progress is moving very, very slowly,” but that it is getting better.
Still, Small says he's not sure taxpayers are willing to open their wallets to clean these waterways, despite the recent public health crisis in Flint, Michigan where lead leached into the drinking water supply.
“As long as we are able to stay in front of it – barely – I think people will be satisfied,” he said.
Former Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed a wide-sweeping plan to scrub water sources of legacy pollution in 2014, but state lawmakers resoundingly rejected the move.
A final proposal from the task force is anticipated in the coming weeks.