Inland Bays Foundation takes citizen advocacy to the next level

The Inland Bays Foundation had its first official meeting in October as an established 501(c)3 organization. Their mission is “to advocate and promote the restoration of the Inland Bays watershed by conducting public outreach and education, tracking restoration efforts, encouraging scientific inquiry and sponsoring needed research, in order to establish a long-term process for the protection and enhancement of the Inland Bays.”

“The tagline under our name is ‘Fostering Environmental Awareness and Action,’” explained Bill Moyer, newly elected president of the group.

Many of the members are either former or current members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of the Center for the Inland Bays, but Moyer said he wanted people to know they plan on working together with the CIB.

“People have said that we are not satisfied with the CIB or think that we think they are not doing enough, but we look at ourselves as the other half of the pie,” he explained. “I talked to Chris [Bason, acting director of the CIB] and he is enthused. We intend to work hand-in-hand to look at what needs to be done to address the issues.”

Moyer did say that, as an independent organization, they would be able to do different things than they could under the Center’s purview. “The CIB works under certain guidelines, and we will be independent and be able to act on our own.”

Many of their members are also involved with Citizens for Clean Power, Fenwick Island’s Environmental Committee and/or the Sierra Club, as well as other environmental advocacy groups. Moyer himself was born in Lewes and raised in Laurel and worked for DNREC as the manager of wetlands and subaqueous lands for 30 years before retiring.

He said the group has already drafted a letter to Gov. Jack Markell concerning the Wannendale project, a large wastewater project near Lewes. Many CAC members openly questioned Secretary Colin O’Mara of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control about the project when he issued a Coastal Zone Act permit for it.

In 1969, Moyer explained, documents on environmental studies done on the Rehoboth and Assawoman bays were presented to then-Gov. Russell Peterson. He said those reports stated that stressors needed to be addressed or conditions in the inland bays would worsen. As an employee, in 1981, he chaired the inland bays study group that charged DNREC, DelDOT and Sussex County to look at the bays to see what could be done to improve their quality.

In 1983, they made recommendations to the governor’s task force that eventually led to the formation of the CIB, which was established as a nonprofit organization in 1994 under the auspices of the Inland Bays Watershed Enhancement Act (Title 7, Chapter 76).

What led to the Inland Bays Foundation, formed this year as an independent organization, explained Moyer, is the fact that a number of the recommendations made in 1983 have yet to be implemented.

Citing the CIB’s 2011 State of the Bays Report, Moyer said they were “quite honest,” as the report says the water quality of the bays still remains fair to poor.

“In 1969, they were fair to poor. I don’t think much progress has been made, and we have to look at other options out there. Our main two questions are: ‘What are the outstanding issues?’ and ‘Why have they not been addressed?’”

Moyer said land use, habitat protection and water quality remain the top issues.

Joining Moyer in the group’s leadership are President-Elect Ron Wuslich, former CAC Secretary Harry Haon as vice president and Helen Truitt as secretary, along with board members Bob Adams, Bob Chin, Bob Gallaghar, Carl Mantega, Martha Keller, Bob Cubbison, Bill Wickham, John Austin, Dough Parham and Gary Jayne.

Specific goals for the IBF include efforts to sponsor and support educational activities and restoration efforts that lead to the present and future preservation and enhancement of the Inland Bays watershed; to build, maintain and foster the political will to preserve and restore the resources of the Inland Bays watershed; to advocate informed decisions concerning the management of the resources of the Inland Bays watershed to foster better land use planning and habitat protection.

Other goals include work to keep the public informed of the progress or lack thereof in the restoration of the Inland Bays; to hold government accountable to enforce the protections provided for the Inland Bays under the Clean Water Act and Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act, Ambient Water Quality Standards, and Antidegradation Implementation Procedures for Surface Waters of the State, to assure that viable plans are implemented, and to restore and maintain the waters and tributaries of the Inland Bays as waters of exceptional recreational and ecological significance.

The group will start meeting monthly and is currently working on a Web site.