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Local environmental groups make renewed push to clean up Delaware waterways

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Whether you’re someone who enjoys sunbathing down at Cape Henlopen, fishing in the Inland Bays or even walking your dog along the Christina River, chances are that you might care about the state of Delaware’s waterways.

Brenna Goggin, advocacy manager at the Delaware Nature Society, said that this is the idea behind a new clean water campaign that they’re launching with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Center for the Inland Bays. These local groups are looking to engage with recreationists and educate them about water quality.

“A large majority of the time, people that participate in outdoor activities don’t think of themselves as environmentalists,” said Goggin. “Yet the things they enjoy depend on a clean and healthy environment.”
 
Over 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are considered impaired for fishing and swimming, due to various sources such as urban and agricultural runoff.  Only six percent of Delaware’s rivers are able to support healthy fish and wildlife and 14 percent are safe for swimming. Almost exactly a year ago, Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) announced an initiative to clean up 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways by 2030, but he found no support from lawmakers for a proposed property fee designed to raise 30 million dollars to help pay for that effort.

Goggin suggested that individuals can still make a difference by building rain gardens, turning their backyards into certified wildlife habitats and reducing their use of fertilizers and pesticides. But most of all, she said, people can make the biggest difference by stressing the need to fund clean water quality programs to legislators.

“[Funding clean water] is critical to our future as a state, from an economic and environmental perspective, and it’s critical to our health and our safety,” said Goggin.

Chris Bason, executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays, also hopes this new campaign will inspire people to speak out about the need to fund improvements to Delaware’s waterways.

“We have a lot of the programs in place to help residents and business people, like farmers, to clean up the water,” said Bason. “But the amount funding needed is the gap we need to bridge.”

“The Clean Water Campaign: Delaware’s Clear Choice” campaign is funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation. The Delaware Nature Society will also lead a rally for clean water in front of Legislative Hall in Dover on June 2nd. Updates on the campaign can be accessed at the initiative's website.
 

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