DNREC hosts Reclaim Our River, Nanticoke Series guided nature walk and celebration Saturday, Oct. 3

Showing off Creek Critters
Alice Mohrman (left), Delaware Nature Society education coordinator, shows off “creek critters” for youngsters at an earlier Reclaim Our River, Nanticoke Series event.

SEAFORD – Chapel Branch Nature Area will be the setting Saturday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. for a nature walk that marks the final event in the 2015 Reclaim Our River (ROR), Nanticoke Series, a program offering monthly events, workshops and recreational activities aimed at raising water quality awareness in the Nanticoke Watershed. DNREC along with the Delaware Nature Society, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, and the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy, invites everyone to the event where the ROR partnership will also celebrate the series’ efforts to highlight water quality awareness while providing fun outdoor activities for the entire family.

For a $5 registration fee (plus $1.12 credit card fee) participants can enjoy food, drinks, and informational exhibits by the ROR partnership, as well as a nature walk where guides will discuss native wildlife. There will be hands-on activities exploring the “creek critters” of Chapel Branch with DNS as well as demonstrations on how to test water quality with the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance’s Creekwatchers.

Local Boy scouts and other willing participants will lend a volunteering hand to the nature area by working on trail maintenance to reduce erosion into the creek – volunteers are always welcome for helping maintain this beautiful area. Some tools will be available for use although volunteers are encouraged to bring additional items such as clippers, shovels, saws and wheelbarrows which may be in short supply. The focus of this volunteer service project will be building trail steps to reduce erosion.

The nature walk and ROR celebration are sponsored by Del-Coast Design & Build and Dogfish Head Brewery. Raffle items provided by sponsors include a $500-value trash and recycling storage shed from Del-Coast Design & Build, as well as apparel and other items from Dogfish Head Brewery. The Chapel Branch Nature Day will also have on hand experts to educate event attendees on techniques used to improve water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution entering Delaware’s waterways.

The Chapel Branch Nature Area is located at 492 Woodland Road Seaford, DE 19973. More information about the final 2015 ROR, Nanticoke Series event can be found at http://delawarewatersheds.org/ . Registration can be done at http://tinyurl.com/chapelbranch while a flyer for the event can be found on the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship website (PDF).

The Reclaim Our River, Nanticoke Series co-sponsored by DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship is designed to bring monthly events, workshops and recreational activities to the Nanticoke Watershed. The series offers participants fun opportunities to connect with their waterways and provides important information on water quality to help protect aquatic resources. Chapel Branch Nature Area is managed by the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy a local land trust protecting lands within western Sussex County and protecting the Chapel Branch Nature Area in perpetuity.

Media Contact: Phil Miller, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-290-3578, or email: philip.miller@delaware.gov

Vol. 45, No. 326

DNREC now accepting grant proposals for wastewater and surface water project planning

Proposals due by August 26

DOVER – The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Watershed Stewardship and the office of Environmental Finance are now accepting project proposals from state, county and municipal governments and governmental subdivisions for matching grants for wastewater and surface water project planning. Proposals must be received by 4:30 p.m. August 26, 2015.

Eligible projects include planning, preliminary engineering, and feasibility analysis of: wastewater projects; stormwater retrofits; green technology practices; stream and wetland restoration projects; small watershed studies; master surface water and drainage plans; and other source water pollution control projects.

Grant applications of up to $50,000 will be considered with a 1:1 cash match requirement. Up to 10 percent of the grant funds may be used for administrative costs. There is an annual cumulative grant award cap of $100,000 per successful applicant per fiscal year.

The Wastewater and Surface Water Matching Planning Grant programs are set-asides in the State’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. Projects will be recommended for funding by the Delaware Water Infrastructure Advisory Council through a competitive grant process. New for this grant cycle are insurance requirements of the grant recipient.

For a Wastewater Matching Planning Grant, the project guidelines and the application can be found online by clicking Wastewater Matching Planning Grant. Proposals must be submitted by email (less than 10 MB) to Greg.Pope@delaware.gov.

For a Surface Water Matching Planning Grant, the project guidelines and the application can be found online at Surface Water Matching Planning Grant. Proposals must be submitted by email (less than 10 MB) to James.Sullivan@delaware.gov.

For more information, contact Greg Pope, Environmental Finance at 302-739-9941 or Jim Sullivan, Division of Watershed Stewardship at 302-739-9921.

Media Contact: Melanie H. Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.

Vol. 45, No. 236

Townsend-area farmers receive New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of Year Award

Norman and Gwen Pierce
Norman and Gwen Pierce, owners of Union Ridge Farms near Townsend, are recipients of the New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year Award.

TOWNSEND – Norman and Gwen Pierce, owners of Union Ridge Farms near Townsend, are the recipients of the New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year Award, presented annually to a farmer in the district who has exhibited a high degree of interest in conservation for their farm operation. The Pierces, who are Delaware natives, have implemented a conservation plan that addresses concerns with soil, water, air, plants and animal resources, and have addressed those resource concerns through technical and financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Castle Conservation District.

The Pierces have a farm background but did not begin their current enterprise of raising Boer goats until 2006. They raise approximately 30 animals per year on their five-acre operation. Some of the does are sold for meat while others are sold as breeding stock or to become show goats. The goats have two breeding cycles per year and usually have twins and triplets. They reach 65-70 pounds within four to five months. Besides rearing goats, the Pierces also raise rabbits and bobwhite quail.

To improve their farming operation, the Pierces asked for assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the New Castle Conservation District. To improve overall drainage on the property, an existing ditch was redone and a new culvert pipe installed. Existing pastures were rejuvenated using a combination of warm and cool season grasses and milk vetch to provide for both grazing and hay production. The milk vetch will continue to grow through the winter months.

A rotational grazing program also was put into place with new fencing and two animal watering devices to make water accessible from Union Ridge Farms’ four pastures. The goats are rotated through the four pastures every 10-20 days. This gives the first pasture 30-60 days to rest and recover. Since installing these conservation practices in the fall of 2013, the Pierces have seen a great improvement in their operation, pasture quality and animal health. Beyond help the Pierces have gotten from NCCD and USDA, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service has also provided invaluable assistance and advice for their farming operation.

The Pierces have hosted two goat seminars at their farm and two at the Southern States farm store in Middletown. They are also involved in a de-wormer study being conducted by Delaware State University based on pumpkin seed – trying to find natural methods to de-worm the goats. Ultimately, the Pierces would like to add more acreage to their farm to increase the number of goats they can raise.

The Pierces were also recently honored as minority farmers of the year in Delaware by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service with a featured article in Minority Farmer magazine.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902, or Rick Mickowski, New Castle Conservation District, at 302-832-3100 ext. 113.

Vol. 45, No. 190

DNREC announces new flood risk maps for New Castle County become effective February 4

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship announced today that new flood risk maps for New Castle County will be released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on February 4. The maps can be found online at http://msc.fema.gov/portal.

Over the past 10 years, DNREC, through its Division of Watershed Stewardship, has worked with FEMA to improve the accuracy of flood risk maps statewide through a Cooperating Technical Partnership. The new flood risk maps for Kent County became effective in July 2014, and new Sussex County maps will be released on March 16. Those maps can also be found at http://msc.fema.gov/portal.

The New Castle County maps reflect several additions and changes from previous flood risk maps. New flood zones and base flood elevations have been established along the Delaware River and all tidal areas, following completion of a coastal flood study by the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. In addition, watershed studies in the Appoquinimink, Red Clay Creek, White Clay Creek, Mill Creek and Belltown Run Watersheds that were performed by DNREC under a partnership agreement with FEMA are shown on the maps.

“Hydrologic studies that determine water flows, base flood elevations and accurate floodplain boundaries were performed by DNREC on about 30 miles of waterways in the Appoquinimink Watershed,” said Michael Powell, program manager for DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship. “With these results, base flood elevations for many areas are now shown on FEMA’s maps for the first time, providing property owners with more detailed and accurate flood risk assessments.”

The flood risk maps are used by insurance companies to establish property rates and by local communities to enforce local floodplain codes. In conjunction with the release of the new flood risk maps, several communities in New Castle County have recently amended local codes to adopt higher floodplain development standards. Many of these higher standards – such as first-floor freeboard (building living space to a margin of safety above predicted flood levels), and limiting development in floodplains and flood resistant foundation designs – were recommended by the Delaware Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee, formed as a result of Senate Bill 64, which supports more effective floodplain management standards.

“Many of these higher standards – especially establishing at least 18 inches of freeboard and siting new buildings away from high risk floodplains – can result in significantly lower flood insurance premiums for property owners,” Powell said.

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program makes flood insurance available to local property owners. Mortgage lenders require borrowers whose properties are located in a designated special flood hazard area to purchase flood insurance as a condition of receiving a federally backed mortgage loan in accordance with the Federal Disaster Protection Act of 1973. Over the past several years, DNREC has helped several Delaware communities join the National Flood Insurance Program.

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover damage incurred by flooding, however, all property owners can purchase flood insurance. Homeowners interested in how the proposed changes could impact the cost of their flood insurance premium should contact their insurance agent.

For information on the flood risk maps, contact Michael Powell or Greg Williams, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship at (302) 739-9921. For information on the DNREC’s flood mitigation program, please visit DNREC’s website at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/swc/Drainage/Pages/Flooding.aspx.

Media Contact: Melanie Rapp, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 23

Delaware issues updated fish consumption advisory

DOVER (Oct. 23, 2013) – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health today updated the fish consumption advisory for fish caught in the tidal Delaware River. The updated advisory is a result of analysis of chemical contaminants in fish caught in the tidal Delaware River and elsewhere throughout the state. The change reflects long-term environmental improvements in the tidal Delaware River.

The fish consumption advisory for the tidal Delaware River from the Delaware/Pennsylvania/New Jersey border to the C&D Canal has been updated to a less restrictive advisory due to falling levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, chlorinated pesticides, and mercury. For the general adult population, the current advice has been changed from “eat no finfish caught in the tidal Delaware River north of the C&D Canal” to “eat no more than one eight ounce meal of finfish per year,” while retaining the “do not eat” advice for women of childbearing age and young children. This advisory is being issued today in collaboration with the New Jersey Toxics in Biota Committee and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

“This updated advisory in the tidal Delaware River is a very positive sign that water quality is improving and that our efforts, especially during the past few years, are working,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara. “Initiatives, such as those that clean up harmful wastes and reduce pollutants from entering our waterways, along with cooperative efforts of the Delaware River Basin Commission and our state, federal, and local partners to address PCBs, are making a difference. Our goals are to clean up the remaining sources of contaminants, accelerate improvement in fish and ultimately lift advisories when they are no longer necessary.”

Fishing is a popular activity in Delaware and many people eat their catch. Although eating fish in moderation as part of a healthy diet may provide health benefits, fish can accumulate contaminants from the water, sediment and from the food they eat. Contaminants may build up over time in fish tissues even with extremely small amounts of chemicals in the water. The amount of contaminants in fish depends on the species, size, age, sex and feeding area of the fish. Chemicals, such as PCBs, mercury and dioxin in fish are a health risk for people who regularly consume their catch.

In addition to the advisory mentioned above, DNREC and DHSS remind the public of the general statewide fish consumption advisory first issued in 2007: 

  • Eat no more than one meal per week of any fish caught in Delaware’s fresh, estuarine and marine waters.  This advisory applies to all waters and fish species not otherwise explicitly covered by an advisory.

The statewide advisory is issued to protect against eating large amounts of fish and fish that have not been tested or that may contain unidentified chemical contaminants. One meal is defined as an eight-ounce serving for adults and as a three-ounce serving for children. The statewide general advisory is consistent with a national advisory issued by the EPA and FDA, and with general advice given by many states throughout the country.  Delaware issues more stringent advice for specific waters when justified by the data.

People who choose to eat species under advisories can take steps to reduce exposure. Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue, so proper cleaning and cooking techniques can significantly reduce levels of PCBs, dioxins, chlorinated pesticides and other organic chemicals. Larger fish of a given species will likely have higher concentrations. To reduce your risks of ingesting these chemical contaminants:

  • Remove all skin.
  • Slice off fat belly meat along the bottom of the fish.
  • Cut away any fat above the fish’s backbone.
  • Cut away the V-shaped wedge of fat along the lateral line on each side of the fish.
  • Bake or broil trimmed fish on a rack or grill so some of the remaining fat drips away.
  • Discard any drippings. Do not eat drippings or use them for cooking other foods.

However, these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from fish.

The Delaware Fish Contaminants Committee, with representatives from DNREC and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), recommends sampling and has overseen the collection of fish tissue samples from Delaware’s streams, ponds, estuaries, and ocean waters. The committee makes recommendations to the Secretaries of DNREC and DHSS as to the appropriate advisories to put into place.

The revised fish consumption advisories chart with meal advice for fish caught in Delaware waterways and information on the monitoring program can be found on DNREC’s web site, http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Advisories.aspx.

In addition, the updated advisory will be listed in the fish consumption advisories chart in the 2014 Delaware Fishing Guide that will be available at local tackle shops and fishing license dealers in early 2014. The Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health also posts fish advisory signs along waterways with consumption advisories.

For more information, contact Dr. Rick Greene, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-739-9939.

Visit the following U.S. government websites for information on federal fish consumption advisories, on mercury in fish and shellfish, and on how to safely select and serve fresh and frozen fish.

DNREC Public Affairs, Melanie Rapp, 302-739-9902
DHSS:  Rita Landgraf, Secretary; Jill Fredel, Director of Communications, 302-255-9047,
Pager 302-357-7498, Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov