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Officials dismiss Surfrider's appeal to DNREC over Rehoboth Beach ocean outfall project

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Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media
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Rehoboth Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant

 

In a 4-2 vote, the Environmental Appeals Board dismissed the Delaware Surfrider Chapter’s case against DNREC over its approval of a loan to help fund Rehoboth Beach’s ocean outfall pipe project.

The pipe would redirect treated wastewater from the city of Rehoboth Beach from the Inland Bays to the Atlantic Ocean. Nutrients from city’s wastewater have contributed to the pollution of the Inland Bays for eight decades. The Surfrider Foundation, along with the Delaware Sierra Club Chapter and other environmental groups, have opposed the project, saying that the effluent should be used instead to fertilize farmland, a method known as land application.

DNREC secretary David Small signed off  on the $5 million dollar loan in January, based on an environmental impact statement that concluded that an ocean outfall pipe would cause minimal adverse impacts to aquatic life.  However, no permits have been issued yet from DNREC or the Army Corps of Engineers. Seven permits are required before construction of the outfall pipe can begin.

The Surfrider Foundation’s attorney argued that any action taken by the DNREC Secretary may be appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board. However, deputy attorney general David Ormond, who represented DNREC, said that a loan does not qualify as an appealable matter. Ormond also added that the Surfrider Foundation also failed to comply to the 20-day deadline to appeal Small’s record of decision. The Delaware Chapter filed their appeal on the 21st day, due to the 20th day being on a Sunday when the DNREC office was closed.

Gregg Rosner, a member of the Delaware Surfrider Chapter, was disappointed with the outcome of the hearing, but is far from giving up on the issue.

“Well, there’s no state statutes for making an appeal of this type at all and so we fell into a black hole, so to speak, of what we could possibly do and that has to be addressed by the state legislature. I will be knocking on the doors of Rep. Ernie Lopez and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf to correct this injustice," said Rosner.

While the Surfrider Chapter can challenge the permits to build the pipe, the group wanted to stop the project early in the permitting process.

“This will be a battle for everybody, certainly for people who love the ocean," said Rosner.

Residents and property owners of Rehoboth Beach can vote on authorizing funds for the outfall pipe project this Saturday, June 27th.

 

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