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Hogan Administration Calls to Suspend Oyster Restoration

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A healthy oyster reef. Photo by Dave Harp.

Just as oysters are staging a comeback, Governor Hogan's Administration has moved to suspend oyster restoration.

As reported after Christmas by the Star Democrat, the Hogan Administration asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cease its already agreed to oyster restoration efforts on the Tred Avon River. Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration no longer wants the Army Corps to follow through with restoration work underway, but instead wants to cease all work and wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if it will move forward with the restoration.

Deferring to the Hogan Administration request, the Army Corps agreed to the delay, the Star Democrat reported Jan. 7. The action will stall one of the biggest restoration projects in the state likely for more than a year.

We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. Based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest.

The restoration planned for Tred Avon will benefit everyone, boosting oyster reproduction, attracting fish, and cleaning currently heavily polluted water. Oysters are a common resource to be protected for all—not just for one group's economic gain.  

We understand the watermen's concerns. Generally, they oppose the creation of sanctuary areas like the Tred Avon where they can't harvest. It is worth noting that a University of Maryland study a few years ago called for a complete closure of the fishery as a conservation measure. In deference to watermen, Maryland maintains 76 percent of all oyster bars open to harvest, and we support that.

And even with the sanctuaries in place, harvest increased five-fold over the last five years. The 24 percent of bars that are closed as sanctuaries should stay that way to provide important ecological benefits, to help build the population, and to stabilize the fishery.

As reported by the Star Democrat, a handful of watermen leaders convinced the governor to delay the Tred Avon project with "new data" on the effectiveness of restoration efforts. 

 The first problem with this delay request is no "new data" exist. The state's fall oyster survey is still being analyzed, and no data are yet available even to state managers. According to the Corps of Engineers, what information is available indicates restoration has, "resulted in healthy oyster populations and reef habitat." 

The delay of the Tred Avon work also violates consensus. In designing the project, the Army Corps was sensitive to local concerns. The Corps even modified the plans last year to satisfy local watermen. The watermen and the Hogan Administration were part of the consensus and agreed to this modification. Asking now to stop the project entirely, goes against the consensus decision and disregards an open public process.

The biggest concern we have with this delay request is that it reveals a bias by the Hogan Administration against restoring oysters on sanctuary bars. If the administration believes work related to oysters should wait until the five-year review of Maryland's oyster plan is finished in July, why wouldn't the administration call for a delay in ALL parts of Maryland's oyster plan, including oyster harvesting? 

Oysters are making such an encouraging comeback now, leading to cleaner, healthier waters. But these water-filtering, reef-building bivalves still face considerable challenges. Political moves designed to appease a small minority opposed to oyster sanctuaries shouldn’t be another hurdle oysters need to overcome.  

To delay oyster restoration based on unsubstantiated data is not in Maryland's best interest. The majority of Marylanders want oyster restoration work to continue.

—Bill Goldsborough 
CBF's Director of Fisheries

Stand up for our oysters! Click here to send a message to the Hogan Administration.

Comments

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Graham Norbury

The fundamental problem is that DNR's own data appears to show that restoration efforts in Harris Creek simply aren't working, while the natural reefs in adjacent Broad Creek are doing just fine.

On top of the questionable restoration efforts, the Corps of Engineers dumped tons of rock and created several navigational hazards in the heavily-traveled Knapps Narrows area which directly was responsible for severe damage to the running gear numerous boats (both commercial and pleasure).

So, as a State, should we be investing even more money on these questionable efforts (on top of the millions of dollars literally poured into the water) or should we step back and get some good answers before proceeding?

Michael Holland

Sadly the "Land of Pleasant Living" was supplanted by the "Land of Leisure Living" a long time ago. The oysters we get down here in Georgia are from Virginia. It's time to change the flag and take the fisherman and farmer off and replace them with something from the 21st Century.

Mike Bitting

http://chestertownspy.org/2016/01/19/op-ed-math-error-halts-multi-million-dollar-oyster-restoration-by-tim-junkin/

Robert Newberry, Chairman  DFA  Inc

Here's a statement that will say it all to the NGO's involved in this restoration project that are too busy chasing the big dollar : WHY IS YOUR HATRED FOR ME, MY INDUSTRY, AND WHAT I DO, GREATER THAN YOUR LOVE FOR OUR CHESAPEAKE BAY ?? Answer that boys !!!

Joseph Politt

Do we have to reach a level of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay that we have to begin calling the Chesapeake Bay, FLINT BAY, and have to put a line item in the State of Maryland's Budget to begin to Contract the weekly shipment of water bottles to the mothers, fathers and children of MARYLAND???????

Are we going to screw it up like FLINT or are we going to learn a new level of excellence?????

Laws need to be passed to send Corporate executives, government executives & officials and others who are threatening the life cycles of the Bay to spend time in jail for being part of the active polluting of the Bay and allowing the pollution to reach a level that can potentially make all Marylanders & others sick or kill us....

I think/hope we have leadership that doesn't want to go down that road...

May we begin to restore the land & water and continue to live in concert with the life cycles of the Bay...

Keziah

The fundamental problem is that DNR's own data appears to show that restoration efforts in Harris Creek simply aren't working, while the natural reefs in adjacent Broad Creek are doing just fine.

maryjane

great information.

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