Delaware’s inland bays contribute to the state’s economy

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) – The fiery reflection of a sunset over the bay. The misty sea breeze rushing in while sailing in the cove. The royal flight of a heron through the green swamp.

For many, discovering Delaware’s inland bays can be invaluable.

But that doesn’t mean that these natural wonders are without real economic value either. From tourism-based industries like recreation and lodging to construction and real estate, the bays bring in billions of dollars for the state — and that’s no exaggeration.

According to a recent report by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and Delaware Sea Grant College Program, the inland bays – which include Indian River, Rehoboth and Little Assawoman bays – contribute more than $4.5 billion to the economy of Delaware.

It’s one of the statistics that report co-author Chris Bason of the Center for the Inland Bays says helps their steadfast argument: Delaware’s inland bays are worth the financial investment.

“It just proves that it’s a very good investment to protect and restore the water quality of the inner bays, and what we need to do most right now, which is related to this report, is to protect the spaces open,” Bason said. “We need to protect forests and wetlands before they are developed.”

This is because forests and wetlands are essential for filtering out pollution that has threatened bays for years, he explained. While Sussex County and the state have made significant progress in land preservation, Bason said there is a lot of work to be done – in particular, work that requires buy-in from local policy makers and of State.

With analysis from Key-Log Economics, Hauser and Bason say the berries not only make a significant contribution to the local economy, but they would bring in even more money to Delaware if the state got involved. strategies to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in berries.

Bason said he hopes this latest report will help tell that story and trigger further action.

This report also contains many other inland bay findings that might surprise even some of Delaware’s keenest anglers or nature lovers. Delaware Online/The News Journal has summarized some of these highlights.

1. Inner bays support $4.5 million and 35,000 jobs

The report determined that more than $4.5 billion and 35,000 jobs can be traced to Delaware’s inland bays.

When calculating economic activity related to inland bays, researchers focused on relevant industries, including water-related businesses like shellfish fishing or boat dealers; tourism and leisure, such as hotels and motels or sporting goods stores; and infrastructure and services ranging from groceries to real estate and healthcare.

Most of the contributions came from this last category, meaning whatever was needed to support people who lived near the inner bays.

The study also looked at direct, indirect and induced contributions. To explain this, the authors used the example of a boat rental company.

The company’s direct contributions would include hiring staff to operate and direct charter fishing trips. When other companies supply them with oil and fuel or bait and fishing tackle, this is an indirect contribution. The induced contribution comes into play when the chartered boat’s employees use their earnings to buy and maintain homes, buy personal vehicles, or buy food and clothing.

These calculations do not even include tax revenues, including those levied on businesses, personal income, property taxes and real estate transfer taxes. These revenues for federal, state and county governments were estimated at $458 million.

2. Almost all of this activity takes place in Sussex County

According to the report, of the billions of dollars that inland bays contribute to the state, 89% of that stays in Sussex County.

An even greater proportion – 94% – of jobs allocated to inland bays are in the county.

This may not be entirely shocking considering the growth of the tourism industry in southern Delaware. The study cites research that 7.5 million visitors came to Sussex County in 2019 and tourism became the state’s fourth largest employer.

A 2019 Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control survey further found that 66% of households in East Sussex County participate in fishing, 49% in canoeing or kayaking, 41% motor boating and 43% participate in bird or wildlife watching.

3. Better water quality can increase property values

The report makes it clear that inland bays can support booming industries like construction while bearing the brunt of that same rapid development.

Despite this complicated relationship, the study highlights that water quality can have direct benefits on real estate and land values.

For years, studies have shown that waterfront properties increase in value when water quality improves. But a more recent study looking at the Chesapeake Bay estuary showed that when the water was clearer — depending on how deep someone can look into the water — property values ​​increased.

Although Bason has stated that the goal is not to increase the value of waterfront homes, it is another element that can help visualize the main problem: clearer water is not only aesthetically better for residents, it helps bring more sunlight and nutrients to these habitats, improving their overall health.

4. The industry that benefits the most from berries is…

According to the calculations in this report, residential and non-residential construction come out on top in terms of the economic contribution of bays.

This industry accounted for $674.5 million in 2020 dollars and nearly 4,200 jobs.

While the report’s authors expected to see high economic activity around tourism-related businesses like boating or accommodation – and the marina and boating economy of the bays contributed another $76 million – Bason said he was surprised by the skyrocketing contributions from the build.

The report also highlights how smaller but growing industries, such as local oyster production, would greatly benefit from clearer, healthier waters.

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