The League of Women Voters of Sussex County is asking Sussex residents to voice their support for a new ordinance that will increase buffers for tidal wetlands and waters.
Sussex County Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission are scheduling teleconference meetings for discussing a new Wetlands and Buffer Ordinance that will address the shortcomings of current regulations. The League of Women Voters of Sussex County applauds the efforts of the Wetlands and Buffer Working Group (WBWG) and urges concerned citizens to voice their support for the WBWG recommendations.
As Sussex County continues to grow, the common practice of building to the water’s edge creates ever-increasing erosion, water pollution, and flooding problems. Removal of vegetation and extant forest along wetland borders also contributes to the progressive loss of habitat for migratory birds and native wildlife. Forested buffers can remove over 80% of nutrient pollution from waters on their way to the Bays. Retaining buffers of old-growth trees and indigenous plants will help protect our waterways from pollution, offset erosion and control flooding, as well as remove carbon from the air.
While neighboring states have far more stringent regulations, the current Sussex County ordinance only requires a 50-foot buffer for tidal waterways and non-tidal wetlands are not subject to any protective border at all. In contrast, New Castle and Kent counties require 100-foot buffers for tidal waterways and 50-buffers for non-tidal wetlands.
The WBWG recommends that buffers for tidal wetlands and waters be increased from 50 to 100 feet and that 30-foot buffers be required for non-tidal wetlands and intermittent streams. The new ordinance would also include a clear mechanism to ensure the updated code is both applied and enforced.
Acknowledging that development will continue, the WBWG has clearly worked to strike a balance between concern for environmental protection and respect for landowner rights. Not only do borders of preserved forest and natural vegetation tend to increase the market value of land and homes, but protected waterways are also an obvious economic benefit for the county’s tourist industry
Initiated by Councilman I.G. Burton, the WBWG consists of members of Sussex government, community businesses (including agriculture), environmental leaders, concerned citizens, and a consultant group. A summary of the WBWG’s recommendations is available to the public at this link.
Voice your support for a new Wetlands and Buffer ordinance that will increase current buffer zones by contacting members of:
Or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper using one of these links:
- newsroom [at] capegazette.com
For a guidebook on public participation in Delaware wetland issues, click on this link.