Beach Replenishment Funding, Dredging Canal Discussed
LEWES, Del.- Beach replenishment for Rehoboth and Dewey Beach is on track for this fall, but funding for future projects continues to be a topic of conversation.
At Monday morning's Association of Coastal Towns Meeting, mayors from the coastal towns agreed to discuss replenishment funding while meeting with state legislators. One suggestion was to realign the state's eight percent hotel tax--of which one percent goes to replenishment. Another was to reach out to legislators from across the state, not just the beach region.
"If that's the area you represent, these investments don't necessarily make sense when there are roads that need to be fixed and libraries that need to be repaired and any number of demands on the state budget and the federal budget," says consultant Tony Pratt, referring to upstate and Western Sussex legislators. "We should be illustrating better the fact that the investment of the coast provides revenue throughout the state through the tourism industry."
The A.C.T. once again talked about levying a tax on short term vacation rentals, like Air BnBs. Mayor Ted Becker says the current funding is barely scratching the surface.
"Whether it's through the accommodations tax or some other means of funding, right now, I think we are looking for a source of money so we can get ourselves into a more proactive rather than reactive situation," he tells WRDE. "There is money for beach replenishment and dredging coming out of the bond bill but maybe there's another way to address it and we'd like to send the legislature to take a look at that."
At the same meeting, the possibility of dredging the Lewes-Rehoboth canal was also broached. Pratt says it's a tougher sell for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the moment due to the canal's inactivity.
"It's arguable that the reason that is [under utilized] is that it's not very navigable. There's shoals all over the place, there's places where at very low tide you run aground, and so it doesn't invite itself well for use,
he explains. "It's kind of like having a road that has a tremendous amount of potholes and nobody is going down it and saying 'Well we shouldn't invest in that road because the black tops's really bad but the traffic is not there,' well the traffic will be there if you fix it."
There is no word yet on when the canal could be dredged. A group of citizens in Rehoboth is currently fundraising to make improvements to the canal's dock near the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
The next Association of Coastal Towns Meeting is May 9th in Lewes.