Lewes is inextricably linked to water – the menhaden industry, the city’s strategic location at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, its natural beauty that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer.
The University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and others in the government and private sectors recognize this positive attribute. Together, they have launched Project ABLE (Align, Build, Leverage and Expand), an initiative to make Lewes a hub for the blue economy, which aims to sustainably use ocean resources for economic growth, and improve livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.
At a recent kickoff event, UD’s Rob Nicholson said Lewes’ blue economy would rely on robotics, wind power and aquaculture, but other industries could be boosted if each prospers.
UD already has a robust robotics program. As far back as 2014, the Cape Gazette had reported about the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s work with underwater robotic systems. With more support, the program can flourish even more.
Wind power has been a highly discussed subject in recent years, with Ørsted proposing to build a wind farm off Delaware’s coast and US Wind planning another wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, Md. In 2022, survey vessels from both companies were near the shores of Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach analyzing the sea floor for the best location to bring cables ashore.
Delaware has been criticized for not capitalizing on the wind power industry’s interest off its coast, as both proposed wind farm projects received Offshore Renewable Energy Credits from the Maryland Public Service Commission. Building up the blue economy in Lewes could be a way to attract manufacturing and other wind power-related industries to Delaware.
Already falling into the blue economy field is a new partnership among UD, DSU and Delaware Sea Grant to build a shellfish hatchery in Lewes. The initiative aims to meet increasing demands of local shellfish farmers by growing larvae and seed in state rather than buying it from out-of-state vendors.
This is a perfect example of the good the blue economy can bring to Delaware. It’s time to embrace other aspects and make Lewes a hub for this burgeoning industry.
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