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Final Thoughts: Chris Bason of the Delaware Center for Inland Bays

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By Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times

A childhood love of the outdoors was the catalyst for what is now a rewarding livelihood for Chris Bason. As director of the Delaware Center for Inlands Bays, he oversees projects and programs that seek to improve Sussex County’s waterways, while creating a deeper connection between individuals – both residents and entrepreneurs – and these vital natural resources. Included within the center’s advocacy are the Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay, Little Assawoman Bay and eight tributaries that feed these bays.

Bason received his undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware, and his master’s degree from East Carolina University. An internship with the Army Corps of Engineers and positions with Nature Conservancies in Delaware and Florida provided a foundation for his present work.

He credits Dr. Mark Brinson, whom he called one of the most accomplished ecological scientists in the field, as an influential mentor. Climate change, pollution, and industrial growth – particularly within the poultry industry, impact the aquaculture of the waters within the center’s domain and provide challenges. Educational programs and regulation coupled with legislative initiatives enable positive change.

“That’s why policy work is so important “¦ It can allow folks to do wonderful things,” he said. Bason added that he is proud of legislation he encouraged early in his directorship.

“One of the first things I did as director was to [seek] legislation to farm shellfish in inland bays,” he said.

House Bill 160 received Gov. Jack Markell’s signature in 2013, enabling exploration of shellfish aquaculture following a lengthy review led by the center and partner stakeholders. Aside from financial benefits, oyster-bed rejuvenation also provides a natural means of filtering the waters. Partnerships with area restaurants have led to oyster-shell recycling, as the shells are the preferred substrate for oyster larvae growth.

Bason said he’s grateful for the center’s business partners, including restaurants and event sponsors, as well as the growing number of volunteers – some 400 each year – who support the work the center does.

“I’m extremely fortunate every day to have the opportunity to make a difference in the place that has been my home and my family’s home for a longtime. It’s an honor,” he said. With regard to the people he serves: “There’s a beautiful connection between community and water. [It recalls] a simpler time.”

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