Keynote Speaker at 3rd IBF Annual Dinner

Former DNREC secretary says save waters with collaboration

Former state Environmental Secretary Collin O’Mara urged environmental advocates to look beyond their normal base of supporters as they work to improve water quality in Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays.

O’Mara, the keynote speaker at the Inland Bays Foundation annual dinner Wednesday night, looked around the room and did a quick survey.

Most of the people there had moved to the region in the last 10 years and only one out of the dozens there knew the current commodities price of corn.

O’Mara said that’s a problem because it means a big stakeholder — farmers — aren’t in the room, let alone a part of the discussion.

“We’re still talking tactics,” he said.

Now, O’Mara said, it’s time to build a coalition that reaches everyone who recognizes how special the estuary is.

Collin O’Mara, former Delaware environmental secretary. O’Mara is President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation.

“This isn’t an environmental vision,” he said.

He challenged the foundation to built a coalition of stakeholders that includes business owners, industry, farmers, commercial watermen and citizens who fish and boat in the bays.

A strong political coalition that works together “can move mountains,” he said.

“We made a lot of progress. A lot of good things have happened but we’re still in trouble,” O’Mara said.

You still can’t fish or swim in many places in Delaware, he said.

“The fact that you still can’t eat fish is problematic,” he said.

State officials, scientists and conservationists have worked to improve water quality in the Inland Bays for more than four decades. There have been white papers, task forces and reports that suggest where pollution is coming from and how to fix it.

Read the complete article on Delaware Online or Contact (the author), Molly Murray at (302) 463-3334 or