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Center for the Inland Bays, South Bethany using wetlands to treat Little Assawoman Bay issues

Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
A floating wetland in South Bethany

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and Town of South Bethany are installing floating wetlands to alleviate water quality issues in the South Bethany Canals.



Chronic water quality issues like excess nutrients cause algae blooms in the South Bethany Canals in the spring and fall. 


Center for the Inland Bays Environmental Scientist Andrew McGowan says these blooms can be toxic for fish. They particularly plague the dead ends of the canals.


“And it will just be a mat of green algae that floats on the surface,” McGowan said. “The water is not clear — that you can see as well.”


Both the center and the Town of South Bethany hope installing 130 wetlands along many of the seawalls of the canals will help treat stormwater runoff from nearby land that flows into the Little Assawoman Bay. The floating wetlands would use hanging roots systems that act as filters to trap suspended sediments and absorb nutrients.


South Bethany Town Manager Maureen Hartman says it’s part of a vision for access to clean water in the bay.


“There’s a lot of boat traffic here, but this is definitely an area where people can enjoy more swimming and not have to worry about the blooms,” Hartman said.


Funding comes from a Community Water Quality Improvement Grant. They’ll use more than $25,000 in state funding, matching funds of their own totaling more than $6,000 and about $11,000 of in-kind labor to install wetlands in salt water this June. McGowan said wetlands have not been used in salt water before.


“All the success is based on their freshwater use,” McGowan said. “The hope is that the hanging roots systems will trap suspended sediments coming in the water column.”

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