Del. Governor Unveils Clean-water Initiative - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Governor Unveils Clean Water Initiative

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware Gov. Jack Markell says hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to clean up the First State's water and waterways.

Gov. Markell introduced a water cleanup proposal during this year's State of the State address. He laid out the specifics Tuesday - specifics that include what the administration is calling a "service fee." It would cost the average Delaware household about $45 a year.

Republicans were quick to disagree with the term "service fee." They're calling it a tax. Whatever the label, it would bring in an additional $30 million a year and allow the state to leverage tens of millions more for projects.

While there is agreement across party lines that Delaware's has a water quality issue, there's split feelings on if this is the way to deal with it.

DNREC says there are almost 400 impaired bodies of water across the state. They're unswimmable, unfishable or undrinkable.

"Right now there are lots of places where you can look, but you can't touch. We think we can fix that within a generation," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O'Mara.

Sec. O'mara believes that goal is worth the money they're asking Delawareans to pay.

"It's going to be a lot more expensive if we put this off. When you compare the cost - $45 a year, versus a cable bill of $150 a month. We're talking about a fraction for something that we use every day in the shower, drinking or recreation."

The state Republican party slammed the proposal. State Senate Minority Leader Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, wasn't a fan either.

"It's the wrong time to be doing this, especially on the heels of a 10-cent gas tax increase proposal," he said. "We've got school referendum coming up across the state. We're just asking too much of Delaware's people."

Two proposals that would hit Delawareans in the wallet could be a tough sell for Gov. Markell in an election year. But if lawmakers pass this plan, it would go toward $800 million in projects - from toxin removal to improving stormwater infrastructure to conservation.

Thirty percent of the money would be for wastewater and drinking water systems, another 30 percent for stormwater management, 20 percent to remove toxins and restore waterways, 15 percent for agricultural and resource conservation. And the last five percent would be for industrial upgrades.

Markell says this is about having an eye toward the future.

"One of the things that any society has to think about is not just what investments are we making for ourselves today or next week, but also what kinds of investments are we making for 5, 10, 25, 50 years from now," he said.

Though this would cost an average household $45 a year, it could run large companies, multi-family complexes, etc., up to $25,000 annually.

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