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Final Word: The DelaWars

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Illustration by Craig LaRotonda http://www.revelationart.net

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I was doing a little research for this column (“You do research for those things?” my wife asked with that familiar tint of dark sarcasm usually reserved for references to my work around the house) when I came upon an interesting fact in Wikipedia: In 2005 Delaware almost went to war with New Jersey.

For a lot of reasons, many which have to do with driving habits in New Jersey, this is a war I would have enlisted for myself. The grass outside could get a little longer and the trim could weather a bit more while I decided to research this story.

Our border with New Jersey isn’t the middle of the Delaware River, at least not all the way down. For reasons that appear to involve trigonometry and geometry, which I wasn’t about to try and digest (arcs, tangents and the like, all dealing with the 12-mile circle boundary to the north), the short answer is that we claim all of the Delaware River, all the way across to the shoreline of New Jersey in an area encompassed by an arc of that 12-mile circle. (No emails, please. I don’t know what this means either.)

Suffice it to say New Jersey has never taken kindly to our claim of its shoreline, even if it’s not the shoreline that is home to Trump Plaza, The Borgata and Lucy the Elephant. Though the U.S. Supreme Court has twice told New Jersey to fuggeddahboutit, the state managed to get all cowboyed up in 2005, saber rattling with a threat to send the battleship New Jersey down the river (would it fit under the I-495 bridge?) while our legislature debated sending out our National Guard. (Do we have any left west of the Euphrates?)

The 2005 dispute focused on New Jersey wishing to build a liquid gas installation of the type the Garden State is so well regarded for. New Jerseyeans have long felt entitled to befoul all the air, water and land within their boundaries, but from a deed granted by the Duke of York to William Penn and upheld by two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the state is prevented from doing so in this small portion of the Delaware, which is protected by Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act, which states that, if anybody is going to pollute this portion of the river, it’s going to be us (this, I believe, from a deed granted by the Duke of York to E.I. duÊ Pont in 1802).

For the time being the war drums are not beating, but if they start again, I’ve got a mission in mind. There are a couple of traffic circles and jug handles in and around the Black Horse Pike I’d like to see us take out in the initial air assault, along with all of Cowtown on any given Saturday in the summer.

I realize all this war talk could open the can of worms that was once known as The Wedge (or the Delaware Wedge, as named by some crafty early Delawareans who were trying to pull a fast one on Pennsylvanians who thought the Wedge belonged to them). The potential for a border war flared when it turned out that Mason and Dixon weren’t any better at trigonometry and geography than I am. But cooler heads prevailed in that one, and Delaware was granted the additional land in 1921. “Pennsylvania gives Delaware a Wedgie,” ran the headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer that day.

This is not to say such border wars won’t erupt again in the future, especially as two of the states that surround Delaware clamor for more land to dump both their trash and spent nuclear fuel rods. We must remain vigilant, fellow Delawareans! We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom-shaped cloud, do we? Wait, that’s just steam from the Salem Creek cooling tower.

Never mind.

Time to mow the lawn and paint the shutters, I guess.Ê

D

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Our resident paranoid, Reid Champagne, continues to cook up conspiracies from his fallout shelter in Newark. BTW: his e-mail address is reid4bar@comcast.net.

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