Gov. Jack Markell recently signed legislation that establishes a dedicated and sustainable funding source for the state’s waterway management operations.

Gov. Jack Markell recently signed legislation that establishes a dedicated and sustainable funding source for the state’s waterway management operations.

Senate Bill 261, sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-20th Dist., and state Reps. Ronald Gray and Ruth Briggs King, allocates increased revenue from the state’s boat registration program to a newly-created Waterway Management Fund for the exclusive support of Delaware’s waterway management operations, as directed by DNREC, to keep channels open and safe for boaters.

Fishing is integral to state and local economies. According to the American Sportfishing Association, the economic value of recreational fishing in Delaware is almost $150 million annually, while the commercial fishing industry’s annual value is estimated at about $10 million. However, commercial and recreational boaters continue experiencing difficulties in navigating the state’s waterways due to the buildup of silt and sediment along main channels.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control estimates the increase in boating registration fees will generate approximately $1.3 million annually.

Priorities for dredging in the state include many channels in the Inland Bays where boating activity is the highest. Massey’s Ditch, connecting Rehoboth and Indian River Bays, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal, Herring Creek, Love Creek and Whites Creek are all in need of dredging. The Massey’s project is estimated to cost $4 million, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal project is estimated at $2.4 million, and Herring Creek project is estimated at $2.4 million. Planning and engineering costs for Love Creek and Whites Creek are estimated at $700,000.

To address the funding needs, the Delaware Waterway Management and Financing Advisory Committee was created in 2014 by Senate Resolution 64 and directed to develop recommendations for sustainable and dedicated funding for waterway management activities statewide. In 2015 the committee recommended increasing boat registration fees as a funding source for waterway management operations, which led to Senate Bill 261.

The legislation will become effective Jan. 1, 2017.

For information, visit dnrec.delaware.gov.