By Lynn R. Parks

The Blades Town Council Monday night postponed a vote on a proposed ordinance covering the Blades Marina. Councilman Don Trice asked for the postponement as the council had not yet heard from town attorney Jim Yori regarding a proposed amendment to the fishing ordinance. Trice would not say what the proposed amendment says. But he did say that it would change the section of the proposed ordinance that deals with fishing in the marina. The Blades Economic Development Council (BEDCO), which operates the state-owned facility, wants to ban fishing in the marina basin. But the state has said that the marina waters are public and therefore open to everyone. The Blades council has been struggling with the marina ordinance since last summer, Mayor David Ruff said. At a Jan. 30 public workshop on the ordinance, Laura Herr, manager of the state's wetlands and subaqueous lands program, said that "boating and fishing should be able to coexist peacefully" in the marina. "We are looking for middle ground here, with boating and fishing both in the marina and both following common-sense rules," she added. Trice said Monday night that the proposed change to the marina ordinance came "in response to the workshop." Herr also admitted at that meeting that the state had made a mistake when it originally OK'd the marina rules, including the fishing ban. "That was an oversight on our department's part," she said. "We should not have approved the rules with that one in there." The state-owned marina opened in 1999. Its construction was funded by $5 million in state funds. It is leased from the state by the town of Blades, which in turn leases it to the non-profit Bedco. The ordinance would be the town's first regarding the marina - up until now, activities have been governed by Bedco's rules. BEDCO banned fishing in the basin from the marina's opening until January 2005, when it was told by the state that it could no longer do so. That state decision came after a complaint by the Delaware Bass Federation that its members were chased from the marina during a September fishing tournament.

In a letter to Bedco dated Jan. 5, 2005, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary John Hughes said that no state law can be used to prohibit fishing in the marina basin, which is state waters. The letter also proposed seven rules for the marina, including: banning fishing from dusk to dawn, anchoring in the marina basin and the use of weights in casting; requiring anglers to give way to marina vessels; and making fishermen responsible for retrieving hooks that are stuck in wooden docks and in tie lines. The letter recommended that BEDCO approach the town of Blades about incorporating the rules into town ordinances. During Monday night's meeting, former Mayor B.J. Hardin, who is also BEDCO liaison with the council, read aloud a letter from BEDCO president Carlyle Windley. "It is now and always has been our position that fishing within the marine basin, either on foot or from boats, is unsafe, unmanageable and detrimental to the reasonable operation of the marina," the letter stated. "That position has not changed since prior to opening the marina. We continue to manage the business of the marina free of charge for the good of the community," the letter concluded. "We ask for your support on this one issue. We feel we deserve your support and will be deeply disappointed if the proposed ordinance is not passed." The letter indicated that, since fishing has been allowed in the marina, there have been "instances of property damage, uncomfortable confrontation and minor injury." Windley said Tuesday morning that the minor injury occurred when a slip holder had to pull a fishing line from his mooring line and was stuck in his finger by a fishing hook. The property damage occurred when a fishing boat, trying to squeeze into a slip, scratched an anchored boat. "There was enough damage that the marine police were called and estimates were made," Windley said. The Blades Town Council next meets Monday, March 13. Trice said that he expects to have heard back from the town attorney regarding the proposed amendment by that time.

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