The Friends of the Nanticoke River was honored this year to be named as the memorial gift beneficiary by the family of Kelley Brohawn, a great lover and advocate for the river, who passed away in September. The generous donations in memory of Kelley have reminded me how important it is for all of us to take the time to speak out for what we believe in and to hold on to what we love. Our members stepped up this year to support us in our legal fight with the Town of Hebron as it continues to pursue the rezoning of Waller Landing (see below for details). I am hopeful that our efforts will ultimately lead to protecting Rewastico Creek and the Nanticoke River from the wastewater pollution and other impacts this project would engender.
Web Site Redesign! Verna Lankford, an outstanding web designer, has completely redeveloped our website. The web site is a vital window to the public and the new one has really changed our image, and led to some important communication via the new “contact us” e-mail link. And, it looks great! Please visit the site and see if you agree: www.friendsofthenanticokeriver.org. I hope you will join me in thanking Verna for her generous efforts because she has donated ALL of her time on this!
Conaway Property Development Bordered on 2 sides by the Nanticoke River and the Nanticoke Wildlife area, and just south of Woodland Ferry, the Conaway property is mostly forested with considerable wetlands. The proposed Nathaniel’s Landing development (99 houses on 150 acres) would threaten known populations of Delmarva Fox Squirrel and a number of other endangered or rare species, as well as the health of the Nanticoke River and the Chesapeake Bay. This land is designated high priority for conservation by the State of Delaware, yet the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project by a 3-2 vote last month. The Friends are appealing to the Sussex County Council and others to stop this misguided exploitation of a truly exceptional natural resource.
Growth and Land Preservation A farmland preservation package for Wicomico County has been developed that appears to satisfy many of the opponents of rezoning and to provide much-needed backing at the County level for farmland conservation. However, with the new County Council, it is difficult to know whether this can be passed. The Friends are committed to supporting agriculture and the land base it depends on in Wicomico County and the entire Nanticoke Watershed.
Wicomico County has also drafted its new Comprehensive Plan. This is the plan that will guide and direct growth and other County activities and approaches for the next 10 years. Last January we weighed in on the early draft of the Plan’s Sensitive Areas element, and this is one of the strongest components of the current document. Unfortunately, much of the current draft seems to point to expanded development and reduced conservation. We hope to turn this around to some degree, and we will need the help of all who care about the future of Wicomico County if we are to succeed. The Plan is coming to public meetings across the County. The 7 pm sessions will be held on Jan. 24th at Wor-Wic Comm. College (Guerrieri Hall 101), Jan. 25th at Rockawalkin Community Hall, and Jan. 26th at the Civic Center, DaNang Room. Please let me know if you can attend and would like suggestions about how to participate effectively!
Last year, the Friends of the Nanticoke River filed for judicial review of the rezoning of Waller Landing by the Town Commissioners of Hebron. This proposed development would increase the population of the Town by approximately 5,000-6,000 residents and add 450,000 square feet of commercial space, requiring new schools and a major investment in fire and police protection, roads, and water and sewer infrastructure, and it would represent a serious threat to the health of Rewastico Creek, a major tributary of the Nanticoke River.
Our appeal was upheld, and the Circuit Court required Hebron to hold another public hearing on the matter. Strangely, the Town both held a second public hearing and also appealed the judge’s ruling. In October, we learned the Town had withdrawn its appeal. While this is an important victory, we are still awaiting the outcome of the second public hearing.
That hearing was held April 26, 2010, and thanks to the generosity of our members and to a substantial grant from the Town Creek Foundation, we were able to retain an expert witness, Mr. Larry Duket. Together with our legal counsel, King Burnett and Mike Pretl, they laid the groundwork for a future appeal. They were accompanied by a number of citizens, 100% of whom spoke in opposition to the project. In addition, a representative of the MD Dept. of Planning, Rich Josephson, expressed that department’s serious objections to the plan. Wicomico County’s Rick Pollitt submitted a letter urging the Town to reconsider this project. John Cannon reiterated the Wicomico County Council’s opposition to this plan. And Sheree Sample-Hughes, the Council member representing the Hebron area, called on Hebron to recognize the threat to agriculture that this project poses by removing 400 acres of prime farmland from production. The Town has still not issued its finding on the second public hearing, 8 months later; however, it is most likely they will approve the project again, and we anticipate another appeal that will be based on more substantial legal grounds (and that will be even more expensive, unfortunately).
Thanks to all of you who supported our request for financial assistance with this fight last year. Your contributions are still needed and very important as we enter yet another year of battling this misguided and threatening development action.
Nanticoke Creekwatcher Report Card released!
The 2009 Nanticoke Watershed Alliance Creekwatchers’ Nanticoke River Report Card was released this fall, and it gives the Nanticoke River an overall grade of B+. This is the highest grade of any Chesapeake Bay Tributary, tied with the Gunpowder the Bush Rivers. However, nutrient levels received lower “grades” with nitrogen averaging in the D range and phosphorus averaging a C.
The Nanticoke River is one of the most pristine in the entire Bay region, and its watershed developed area is only about 6%. This is below the 10% threshold where negative impacts to aquatic life become apparent, and it is great impetus for continuing our vigilance and dedication to protecting this wonderful resource.
The Friends of the Nanticoke River have always been a tax-exempt, non-profit citizen’s organization. This year, we successfully “upgraded” our tax-exempt status to 501(c)(3), which makes us eligible to apply for major grant funding and makes all donations tax-deductible. Our first grant came this past spring from the Town Creek Foundation, which awarded us $15,000 to help with our legal fees in the Hebron appeal.