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Local officials are not happy.
Robert R. Supreme Court ruled in 1934 in favor of Delaware's claim to the low water mark on the New Jersey side. British courts had ruled 200 years earlier that the entire riverbed within 12 miles of New Castle belonged to Delaware.
In the same area, for generations, local youths have used drugs and alcohol without fear of arrest. Cars have been abandoned, stripped or burned in The Baja after they were stolen from this Salem County town, police say.
"The Army Corps of Engineers takes no responsibility for anything," said Bernard Sennstrom, Pennsville's deputy mayor. "They are the most obstinate, stubborn people that I've ever come across. They have absolutely no consideration for municipalities and their problems in dealing with the messes and creations of the Corps of Engineers."
The Killcohook Coordination Area, a 1,468 acre morass of paths, foxtail and dredged dirt formed by the Army Corps of Engineers, wasn't intended to be used this way. But police have been Women Canada Goose Expedition Parka Berry Australia Sale unable to patrol the edge of this wild westernmost territory of New Jersey The Baja mainly because those 580 acres of Killcohook are actually part of Delaware.
A Place Where Lawlessness Is Rule
Constance Cooper, of the Historical Society of Delaware, said a king's grant had established the 12 mile radius in 1681, but the Supreme Court ruled that the low water mark was the boundary.
O'Brien, the Pennsville patrolman, said that for many years local officers called Delaware State Police about crime in The Baja and it took up to an hour for troopers to negotiate their way over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
joy ride, that's where they take it to strip it and burn it. That's the first place we'll look for a stolen car.
"We really can't control the situation down there," O'Brien admitted. ''It's all reeds and soft, dirt roads that change a lot. We've gotten a few patrol cars stuck down there."
In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Killcohook as one of the first migratory bird refuges on the Atlantic coast. Seven years later, a federal report counted tens of thousands of mallard, black duck, pintail and teal.
The waterfowl population shrank. The partying increased.
"It was 10 feet across the state line," O'Brien recalled. "We had to call the Delaware Coroner's Office, 'cause nobody here could touch it."The incident provides a graphic example of the confusion that has afflicted Killcohook since the Army bought it in 1925 and began pumping in dredged material from the deepening of the Delaware River for navigation.
But Pennsville police remain reluctant to venture into the unpaved Baja. Police Chief Berge said his department had no cars equipped to do so.
That and the '87 death of the hunter prompted Pennsville police to ask New Jersey Assemblyman John J. Collins for help. Collins contacted Delaware officials, and in April 1989, Delaware Secretary of State Michael Harkins joined him in announcing that Pennsville police could enforce New Jersey laws over Delaware territory at Killcohook.
But the Army Corps kept pumping in mud and silt, to the tune of about a million cubic yards each year. At some point no one seems to know exactly when the land mass created by the dredge material began to grow above the river's low water mark that delineates the boundary between New Jersey and Delaware.
Hunters have bagged deer and ducks there, out of season. And although The Baja borders a wildlife refuge, no one arrested them.
Although the Supreme Court handed down the last word on the boundary, enforcement in The Baja has been haphazard at best.
"We do not perform law enforcement in the area," said Barry D. Leatherman, assistant chief of the navigation branch for the Army Corps' Philadelphia district.
The change in the low water line also added to the boundary confusion between the two states.
"Anything the kids do, that's the place to do it. It's always been. From parking to drugs to alcohol. . . . He was a Delawarean on Delaware land.
"Of course, the low water mark as it existed in 1934 is kind of difficult to define, because it changes," Jordan said. But at Killcohook, the part that was built into the river became part of Delaware."
Delaware State Police still occasionally respond to complaints in The Baja. Sgt. David Citro said the area technically falls under the jurisdiction of Troop 9 at Odessa, but officers from Troop 6 at Prices Corner usually respond
In November 1987, Pennsville police found the body of a 45 year old hunter in a marshy, unpopulated stretch along the Delaware River south of here known as The Baja.
"It's Delaware, but it's our problem," Pennsville Patrolman Michael J. O'Brien said. "It's our kids down there. . . . When they steal a car for a
"They started blowing that marshland in there shortly after I came on the job in 1962," said Pennsville Police Chief Louis A. Berge. "We also call it The Dike."