Milford City Council recently heard a presentation from Danielle Swallow and Jenny Egan on the WIIN Project, which stands for Waterways and Infrastructure and Investment Network, a project sponsored by Delaware Sea Grant. The presentation included information on the value of the many environmental assets of Milford and Slaughter Beach.
“Milford and Slaughter Beach both reside in the midst of the Mispillion and Cedar Creek watersheds,” Swallow said. “A watershed is really just a word for water that moves on land and underground before heading towards a large body of water like Delaware Bay. We just happen to be in that area in one of Delaware’s largest relatively untouched natural resources. It is rich in biodiversity with a lot of animals and plants. It is also an international flyway for migratory birds that attracts many people to the region. It is also one of the main hubs in the world for horseshoe crabs.
Swallow said Milford has taken many steps to bring citizens closer to the environment with the Riverwalk and that Slaughter Beach is also very much tied to their natural resources. However, prior to this project, little was known whether there was any real monetary value for these resources. With a grant from the NFWF National Coastal Resilience Fund, the WIIN project initiated a two-phase process to place an economic value on some of the region’s environmental resources.
“We started with an economic study as part of Phase I,” Swallow said. “Nature provides extensive services, some tangible and some not. For example, trees purify the air but it is not a tangible service. We know it has value, so we need to figure out what those values are across a wide range of services. “
During this phase of the project, Egan, who interviewed numerous experts and stakeholders as part of the calculation, determined that there were three main components to the region’s environmental assets. Urban River Park and Inland assets include locations with a focus on recreation and tourism, such as the Vinyard Shipyard, Abbott’s Mill and Nature Center, and the Riverwalk. Visits to Abbott’s Mill alone reported general recreational values of between $ 113,000 and $ 6.3 million, while the Riverwalk Greenway reported values between $ 465,000 and $ 1.9 million.
“We understand that these values seem quite remote,” Swallow said. “However, each element of this part of the environment has a different value. It could be the use of kayaking or hiking trails which can generate income or there could be festivals and other items which can generate income. “
The second feature was Marsh River and Wetlands, which would include the Marvel Salt Marsh Preserve at Slaughter Beach. The estimated value of this type of environmental asset for tourism purposes was $ 428,000.
“This type of asset also has another value,” Swallow said. “Salt marshes and wetlands can also reduce flooding which, in turn, reduces monetary losses by up to 10 percent. This gives the marsh and wetlands an additional value of between $ 7,800 and $ 125,200 per weather event. “
The last category examined was Marine Harbor at Slaughter Beach. The assets included were the Mispillion Harbor Preserve, the DuPont Nature Center and the Beach which are all home to wildlife, shorebirds and the horseshoe crab population. These assets also contribute to beach recreation, boating and commercial boating, and commercial shipping. The estimated value of these assets was between $ 574,000 and $ 1.15 million, with the recreational value of Slaughter Beach adding an additional $ 458,000.
“Phase two of this project is in its early stages,” Swallow said. “This will be a study of the infrastructure and other assets of the region. What she seeks is to identify what types of investments in natural resources, in ecotourism, could add value to the region as well as the potential costs of these so that we can make an assessment. cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the Delaware Estuary Partnership is conducting a vulnerability assessment. We all know Delaware is subject to different storms and there is also climate change. Delaware has twice the global rate of sea level rise. This means that over time we have more resources that are inundated. We want to look at what is particularly vulnerable in order to change land use patterns, which is why this assessment is important. This is a two-year effort and we haven’t even completed the first year yet. “
Anyone interested in learning more about this project can contact Swallow at [email protected] or call 302-645-4258. They can also visit https://www.derasci.org/wiin for more information.