DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara has announced that a partnership with the Center for the Inland Bays has led to the marking of a new and safer boating channel around Massey’s Ditch, the primary navigation channel that connects Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay. Massey’s Ditch also has also been the site of occasional collisions on the water that have marred Delaware’s perennial ranking as one of the best states in the country for boating safety.

The new Baker’s Channel was marked in February and boaters have begun using it to alleviate boating bottlenecks in the older channel and for floating outbound traffic from the Massey’s Landing boat ramp.

DNREC and the Center for the Inland Bays’ Water Use Plan Implementation Committee first conferred about marking a new channel for navigation after the Massey’s Ditch channel experienced shoaling issues, according to Chuck Williams, Division of Watershed Stewardship program manager, who noted that Baker’s Channel “is an average of 3-4 feet deep below mean low water” which also makes the navigation route around Massey’s Ditch less turbulent.

DNREC Secretary O’Mara also noted Baker’s Channel in relation to the present condition of the federal navigation channel through Massey’s Ditch – which DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship plans to maintain in the future, since no federal funds are available for dredging the shoals. “Working with the Center for the Inland Bays, we’re providing an invaluable service to boaters with the new channel,” Secretary O’Mara said. “At the same time, DNREC’s taking on additional stewardship of Delaware waters – stewardship that spans water quality and navigable waters, with a strong reminder, apropos the traditional Memorial Day weekend launch, about boating safety.”

The Center for the Inland Bays hired Sussex Marine, a local contractor, to install the Baker’s Channel markers, working from specifications provided by the Division of Watershed Stewardship’s survey crew.

Baker’s Channel was named in honor of Captain Bill Baker who is a member of the Inland Bays’ Water Use Plan Implementation Committee. Captain Baker owns a bait and tackle shop in Lewes and has been an avid boater and fisherman in the area for many years. Beyond partnering with the Center for the Inland Bays on the new channel, DNREC also has a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard to place navigational aids in waterways throughout the Inland Bays and to supplement navigational routes (federal channels) that the Coast Guard is responsible for marking.

The Baker’s Channel markers were established under the purview of this agreement, Mr. Williams said, and through a similar agreement the Division of Watershed Stewardship has with DNREC’s Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section for marking channels. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has recommended a change in the numbering system used in placing the “Baker’s Channel” markers, and DNREC will make the changes over the next few weeks.