DNREC produces wetlands report card and management recommendations on the Smyrna River Watershed

DOVER – A new “wetlands report card” for the Smyrna River Watershed is now available from DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program – the ninth in a series of watershed-specific wetland health reports produced by the Department. The Smyrna River Watershed extends into both Kent and New Castle counties, where agriculture (46 percent) and wetlands (27 percent) primarily dominate the landscape. The wetlands report card indicates that wetlands in the Smyrna watershed were in better-than-average condition when rated against other previously assessed Delaware watersheds, earning an overall B-minus grade.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the wetlands found in the Smyrna River Watershed were the saltwater tidal variety. Other dominant wetland types include freshwater forested flats, riverine, and depressions. Saltwater tidal and freshwater flat wetlands were in the best health of the four types evaluated. Both received a B- grade, mostly as a result of invasive plant species and development closely surrounding the wetlands. Tidal wetlands in this area were in better health compared to most in Delaware due to a lack of man-made ditches.

Teams of wetland scientists from DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary gained permission to visit a total of 122 randomly-selected sites within the Smyrna River Watershed. Using condition assessment checklists and biological metrics, they found that wetlands in the watershed were in fair condition, and that the most common stressors were invasive plants; the digging, filling, and/or ditching of wetlands; and agriculture or development in the buffer area closely surrounding the wetland.

DNREC’s data were used to create a technical report and a more user-friendly report card that summarized not only the health of the Smyrna River Watershed’s wetlands, but also examined the change in wetland acreage in recent decades, what value wetlands provide, and how recent changes in land use will impact wetlands. Already, 32 percent of this watershed’s original wetlands have been lost, primarily due to conversion to development and agriculture. Meanwhile, in their ongoing preservation work, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment program continues to emphasize how wetlands are beneficial resources for both people and wildlife, and that impacts to their health reduce a wetland’s ability to perform and diminish fully, minimizing its valuable role in controlling flooding and erosion, improving water quality, and providing beautiful habitats for us all.

Based on results included in the report, DNREC made recommendations to scientists, decision makers, and landowners to improve the future health of the Smyrna River Watershed’s wetlands. These included: encouraging planting buffers around streams and wetlands; promoting restoration of degraded wetlands; improving protection of non-tidal freshwater wetlands; using best management practices in agricultural operations, and exploring innovative shoreline protection techniques such as living shorelines.

The wetland reports and the work of the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program are made possible by EPA Region 3 Wetland Program Development funding. To view more details on the Smyrna River Watershed or for more information on assessment methods, please visit de.gov/watershedhealth.

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 48, No. 206

Governor Carney Announces Independent Review of Incident at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center

Governor will announce selection to lead review by February 15

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney announced on Tuesday that he will initiate an independent review of the hostage incident at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center last week that led to the death of a 16-year correctional officer, Lt. Steven Floyd.

Governor Carney will announce his selection to lead the review by February 15.

“We will find out how this happened, and work together with all parties involved to prevent this type of incident from happening again,” said Governor Carney. “Every day, our correctional officers accept the risk of performing a dangerous job on behalf of the people of Delaware. And we must take the action necessary to ensure our correctional facilities remain safe and secure.”

The independent review will be initiated after the completion of a Delaware State Police criminal investigation into Lt. Floyd’s death, so as to not interfere with that investigation. A separate internal investigation at the Department of Correction also is ongoing.

The independent review will explore the immediate and underlying causes of the hostage incident at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, which began on Wednesday, February 1. The reviewer will develop a series of actionable recommendations to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

Details about the scope of the review will be released by February 15.


Hannah Sturgis to Represent Delaware in Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest

Hannah Sturgis, 2016 Poetry Out Loud Delaware State ChampionHannah Sturgis, a junior from POLYTECH High School, is among the 53 Poetry Out Loud champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who will participate in the National Finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The finals will be held at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC on May 3-4, 2016 and can be viewed on the live, one-time only webcast at poetryoutloud.org/competition/national-finals.

Hannah, a student from Smyrna, Delaware, received an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the National Finals after advancing from high school and state-level competitions. For the National Finals, Hannah will recite three poems including Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath during the Region 1, Semifinals to be held on Tuesday, May 3 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

“I love poetry because I do not yet fully understand it. I discover something new from reciting, reading or listening to it every day. It is beautiful and difficult; it pushes me to become better at it,” says Hannah.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Information on Poetry Out Loud is available from the Delaware Division of the Arts at http://artsdel.org/poetryoutloud/ and http://www.poetryoutloud.org/.

About the Delaware Division of the Arts
The Delaware Division of the Arts is an agency of the State of Delaware. Together with its advisory body, the Delaware State Arts Council, the Division administers grants and programs that support arts programming, educate the public, increase awareness of the arts, and integrate the arts into all facets of Delaware life. Funding for Division programs is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. For more information about the Delaware Division of the Arts, visit artsdel.org or call 302-577-8278.

Contact: Leeann Wallett, Program Officer, Communications and Marketing
302-577-8280, leeann.wallett@delaware.gov


Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill Recruiting Volunteers to Adopt Residents for Sept. 12 Friends & Families Day

SMYRNA – The Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill (DHCI) is recruiting volunteers to adopt residents for its annual Friends & Families Day event on Saturday, Sept. 12, on the facility’s grounds in Smyrna.

Boot Scootin’ Family & Friends Day Bash, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., will include a DJ entertainment, a picnic lunch, watermelon, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy, as well activities for kids including line dancing, water balloon toss, face painting, and mini-horse visits. The long-term care facility is at 100 Sunnyside Road, Smyrna.

Because many residents will not have loved ones or family members who can participate in the event, the facility is recruiting volunteers to adopt a resident for the day. Volunteers will escort residents to lunch, fun outdoor activities and special treat stations, while also spending quality time with the individuals.

“For individuals who volunteer to adopt residents, you will get back so much more than you give,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “This annual event is an incredible way to give back and to spend quality time with residents of the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill.”

Participants may bring a picnic lunch to share with a resident (any meal restrictions will be provided), or guests may enjoy a sub provided by Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill.

Groups and organizations are also welcome to adopt a resident. Depending on the size of the group, they may adopt a unit, which typically consists of 20 to 30 residents.

The long-term-care facility, which is operated by DHSS, has about 140 residents. Admission requires both a financial and a medical need.

If you or your group is interested in adopting a resident for Friends & Families Day, please contact Jennifer Bobel, Volunteer Services Coordinator, at Jennifer.Bobel@delaware.gov or call 302-223-1011 no later than Wednesday, Aug. 26.


Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.

For more information, contact Jill Fredel
Delaware Health and Social Services
Director of Communications
(302) 255-9047 (office) or (302) 357-7498 (cell)

Almost 200 volunteers plant trees at Blackbird State Forest

Tree Planting at Blackbird State Forest
Volunteers planted a mixture of oak and pine seedlings at Blackbird State Forest.


Almost 200 volunteers donated over 440 service hours as part of a conservation project to plant 4,000 oak and pine tree seedlings on a 10-acre parcel of Blackbird State Forest on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7. Taking advantage of the somewhat seasonable spring weather, 194 volunteers from the Smyrna area – which included 84 adults and 110 youths from local Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops – spent the better part of two days to complete the effort. Many of the young people satisfied requirements for various conservation awards and rank advancement in their scouting programs with the project.

State Forestry Administrator Michael A. Valenti, who has also been actively involved with the Boy Scouts for many years, was pleased with the two-day effort: “Everyone had a great time, nothing but smiles all around and the satisfaction of having contributed to a worthwhile project.”

During a similar planting project in 2012, a total of 73 youths and 49 adult volunteers planted 4,000 oak seedlings on a 10-acre planting site. To date, forestry officials estimate that over 90 percent of the trees have survived.

Contact: Michael A. Valenti, (302) 698-4550 or email: michael.valenti@delaware.gov

Almost 200 volunteers helped plant 4000 trees on a 10-acre tract of Blackbird State Forest.