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Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay

Delaware shellfish farming program lottery not quite complete


KATIE PEIKES, Delaware Public Media/WDDE

Shellfish enthusiasts and watermen will have to wait a little longer to get their leases because officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) said the person drawn first in the lottery wasn’t there.

The order in which people will select leases was set and the 58 watermen who applied will be contacted by phone over the next couple of weeks to choose their acres.

Beyond the delayed efforts to finalize acre assignments, many people like Tim Sage from Lincoln still have concerns about the program. Sage said he is concerned about how bountiful some acres located closer to land will be for shellfish farming.

“Some of them look very shallow so I don’t know how that would fare for winter time if you have a real low tide and you have exposed shellfish they could possibly freeze,” Sage said.

Bill introduced to correct problems in Little Assawoman Bay

SB 77, a bill to correct problems with the planned aquaculture program in Little Assawoman Bay, was introduced in the Delaware Senate on May 3 under the cosponsorship of Senator Gerald Hocker, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, and Rep. Ron Gray.


A summary of the bill is as follows:

As a result of the passage of the in Inland Bays Aquaculture Act, numerous ongoing concerns have been raised during subsequent public meetings and a public hearing. As a result of those meetings, the Secretary's Order No. 2016-W- 0049 reduced the number and location of leasable sites, and eliminated oyster aquaculture in the Little Assawoman Bay. This Act seeks to ensure the following: sites eliminated in the Secretary's Order cannot be considered for leasing for aquaculture; the elimination of poles as a form of markings of any and all leased sites within the Little Assawoman Bay; and limiting all aquaculture leased sites in the Little Assawoman Bay to hard clams only.

The full text can be found in the separate attachment or by going to Click on Bills and Resolutions.

This is a welcome move for all who love Little Assawoman Bay and want to protect it.

For shellfish enthusiasts, state aquaculture program brings triumph, concerns

 Katie Peikes, Delaware Public Media
April 14, 2017

Delaware shellfish enthusiasts are a step closer to raising oysters and clams locally. A lottery will be held in early May for watermen interested in securing spots to raise shellfish in the Inland Bays.

It’s taken the state years to get to this point and Delaware Public Media’s Katie Peikes reports the latest step to launch shellfish farming in Delaware's Inland Bays.

In 2003, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays used a grant to launch an oyster gardening program in Lewes.

John Ewart, an aquaculture specialist with the University of Delaware, said the program was an effort to bring oyster populations up to clean the waters, not put them on the market. It now has 70 oyster gardening locations in the Inland Bays and UD provides the center with spat.

“We’re able to get mature oyster larvae from the Rutgers Hatchery across the bay and we have a pile of recycled shell here and get it all set up in the tank and flood it with aerated seawater,” Ewart said. “When the larvae are mature and ready to set, we flood the tank with larvae and they attach themselves to the shell.”

The program’s success led to a new question: Is commercial shellfish aquaculture feasible in the Inland Bays?

In 2013, Ewart and others pushed the state to allow for commercial harvesting. Regulations were put into place in 2014.

But the actual launch of commercial harvesting has stalled for 3 years, delayed by concerns from a number of nearby homeowners and a lengthy Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.

One of the groups that opposes the regulations is the Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay. Their original concern was the number of sites - 118 acres worth.

“They were being placed right in the area where most of the recreation on the bay takes place in the shore,” said Diane Maddex, the founder of the group.

Maddex said the coalition is relieved the acres available have been lowered to 43, But another concern remains: Pipes sticking five feet out of the water to identify clam plots, are what opponents call an eyesore. Maddex said these markings are unnecessary, since the bay has been restricted to hard clams only.

“If you’re growing oysters, they grow in wire cages and they float in the waterline,” Maddex said. “So to keep people from bumping into the cages, that’s why [state officials] wanted to put these pole markers on each one acre plot.”

But hard clams are grown on the bottom of water in nets, and Maddex said they don’t need poles or pipes to show where they are.

Maddex said the coalition has asked the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to change the regulations, but legislators would have to amend the existing law. They have not heard back from DNREC yet, possibly because the state was eager to get the program going, Maddex said.

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Shellfish growers can now apply for Inland Bays leases

Maddy Lauria, Cape Gazette

March 30, 2017

A statewide lottery is now open for oyster growers hoping to harvest shellfish in the Inland Bays.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control posted a public notice March 29 ( saying anyone interested in the lottery for the first leasable sites must apply by 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 26.

In this first round of public leasing for aquaculture sites in the Inland Bays, growers may pick which acres they would like to harvest in Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays. The public lottery will be held Tuesday, May 2, the notice states.

The state's program ( has set aside 209 leasable acres in Rehoboth Bay, 91 acres in Indian River Bay and 43 acres in Little Assawoman Bay. Growers will be able to harvest American eastern oysters in each of the bays and hard clams in Little Assawoman Bay.

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Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay urges changes in DNREC aquaculture regulations

December 22, 2016

The Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay welcomes two aspects of an order issued by DNREC Secretary David Small on December 20 to govern aquaculture leases in the inland bays. However, the group representing 581 nearby homeowners in Fenwick Island remains concerned about two key unresolved issues that impact the long-term health of this bay.

The Secretary’s order permits use of a blanket Statewide Activity Approval process in considering applications to lease state subaqueous lands for shellfish aquaculture. SAA aquaculture permits will be issued for five years, followed by a renewal process.

One change in the proposed program that is supported by the coalition is the elimination of oyster farming in Little Assawoman Bay, where aquaculture would be restricted to growing hard clams.

The Secretary’s order also reduced, on a nonpermanent basis, the number of plots available for lease in Little Assawoman Bay to the 43 acres negotiated with the coalition over the past two years. This is a 75 percent reduction from the 118 acres proposed by DNREC in 2014 for this bay, which lies within Fenwick Island State Park in southeastern Sussex County.

“The first change needed in the current DNREC regulations is reduction of the excessive markings that are mandated,” said Diane Maddex, a founder of the coalition who is president of the Water’s Edge homeowners association. “Installation of up to 172 6-inch wide, PVC marker poles extending at least 5 feet above the water surface remains a possibility and a danger. Four of these poles on every acre plot, as required, will be a threat to recreational boating along the bay’s eastern shore, where the plots are located. Kayakers, paddleboarders, and novice sailors can’t be expected to maneuver safely around obstacles like these.”

Excessive markings should also be reduced, notes the coalition, because clams are grown commercially under the waterline, rather than in the floating cages used for oysters. Clam farming thus eliminates the need for poles to warn watercraft to avoid collisions with equipment on the leased acres.  

Sally Ford, a Seatowne homeowner, added: “We are frankly disappointed that DNREC has ignored its own SAA regulations, which state that it ‘may adopt statewide activity approvals for specified activities with limiting dimensions and criteria which are considered to have minimal impacts on subaqueous lands, water quality, and habitats.’ These poles, driven into the sensitive subaqueous lands, are not minimal impacts.”

Jack Neylan, the coalition’s cofounder, addressed its second key issue. He pointed out the necessity of making permanent the plot reductions agreed to by Secretary Small. “The 75 deleted acres must be permanently removed from the DNREC aquaculture regulations,” said Neylan, vice president of King’s Grant, “and they must also be excluded from the blanket federal shellfishing permit the state has requested from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The coalition has previously urged DNREC to revise its aquaculture regulations both to lessen the marking requirements and to hold the deleted plots in permanent abeyance.

DNREC should also step up water-quality monitoring in Little Assawoman Bay, advises the coalition. In September 2016 Michael Funk of Ocean City died from Vibrio vulnificus while cleaning his crab pots in the nearby Assawoman Bay. “Vibrio, a virulent flesh-eating bacteria occasionally found in shellfish, can cause serious illness if one ingests raw or undercooked clams or oysters,” said Jack Neylan, a retired Environmental Protection Agency employee. Funk died four days after being infected.

It is expected that the DNREC Secretary’s order will be in force until the Corps of Engineers issues an opinion on whether to grant Delaware a nationwide permit authorizing aquaculture in its waterways. That may occur in the spring, two years after the public submitted comments on the proposal. The aquaculture program was passed by the General Assembly in 2013.

Numerous area environmentalists and fishermen have also questioned DNREC’s regulations on shellfish markers such as poles. Marking all four corners of a multiacre lease “is regulatory overkill [and] will significantly diminish local aesthetic considerations,” noted John W. Ewart of the Delaware Sea Grant Program at a 2014 hearing. At the same hearing, Chris Bason, executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays—which developed the aquaculture program—conjured up “the spectra of a forest of PVC pipes that will be created by four pipes for each one-acre plot.” Robert Kotowski observed that the regulations “will discourage paddlers from using the bay because they will replace the pristine natural sites with a forest of ugly PVC pipes….” Steve Friend, a local fisherman, also criticized the requirement that leaseholders create a 20-foot navigation corridor in multiacre leases. “I think somebody is going to hit our equipment, and I think that that shouldn’t be allowed.”

Issuance of the SAA order follows a June 8 public hearing, during which most speakers—including members of the Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay, residents, local elected officials, and aquaculturalists—pressed the department not to lease the state’s subaqueous lands through this streamlined process. They cited the potential harm the plans pose to the bay’s natural environment and to its widespread recreational use by thousands of residents and visitors. “Why is Delaware inserting commercial businesses right in the middle of this bay, in one of our most fragile state parks, and requiring the drilling of destructive poles?” asked Diane Maddex at the June hearing. “Our state must see the value in saving our own irreplaceable natural areas and must find less intrusive ways to clean up our bays.”

The Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay ( has worked since fall 2014 to ensure that any Delaware state aquaculture program respect the environmental and recreational qualities of Little Assawoman Bay, the smallest of the three inland bays.


DNREC limits our bay to clams and 43 acres

DOVER – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has adopted a process for abbreviated review and approval of shellfish aquaculture leases by DNREC’s Division of Water following a comprehensive review conducted by the Division of Fish & Wildlife on a significantly-reduced number of acres than allowed for under state regulation, while also limiting operations in Little Assawoman Bay approved under the process to growing only hard clams.

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Watermen, public: Bay not ready for full-scale aquaculture

Coastal Point, June 17, 2016
By Laura Walter

It’s up for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) to decide, but many stakeholders have said that conversation needs to continue before aquaculture begins full-time in Little Assawoman Bay.

At a June 8 public hearing in Millville, the public commented on the next step in commercial shellfish aquaculture for Delaware’s Inland Bays. The Wetlands & Subaqueous Lands Section is considering the Statewide Activity Approval (SAA) to allow an expedited permitting process for aquaculture in the Little Assawoman Bay, Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay.

The state legislature passed the initial shellfish aquaculture bill in 2013, seeing a chance to create economic growth and help clean the bays (as oysters are believed to filter excess nutrients). DNREC was instructed to write regulations and pick development sites (442 one-acre sites originally).

After the regulations passed, public outcry caused DNREC to remove about 100 sites from the SAA expedited process, including Beach Cove and parts of the Little Assawoman Bay.

But that doesn’t forbid aquaculture in those zones. Watermen could still request permits. So several people requested the final step in officially forbidding aquaculture in those zones.

Many people said they wanted DNREC to create an advisory committee. Residents and local business representatives said they felt left out during the first half of the aquaculture talks. In the past year, watermen said they, too, have felt ignored.

“If you’re gonna get something done, you have to get everyone involved,” said clammer Steve Friend.

“Several thousand residents were left out of the public process,” said Diane Maddex, a resident representing the Coalition for Little Assawoman Bay, which itself represents eight communities on both sides of the bay. “Numerous concerns about the impact ... remain to be resolved.”

“For those of us lucky enough to live along the inland bays, it is our responsibility to protect the inland bays,” said Sally Ford of the Seatowne community, describing her initial “shock” at discovering the industrial activity that she said seems inconsistent with DNREC’s mandate to protect natural habitat.

Read more at:

State reduces initial lease sites in Inland Bays

Maddy Lauria, Cape Gazette
March 24, 2016

Nearly a quarter of proposed aquaculture lease sites in the Inland Bays have been withdrawn from a streamlined leasing program.

State environmental officials announced it will simplify the permitting process for commercial shellfish aquaculture in the Inland Bays by using a statewide approval process, which will be facilitated by the state's Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands section.

However, the leasing program will not begin until the department receives approval for expedited national permits through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Public hearing to be held June 8, 6 p.m., Millville Fire Hall


DNREC - Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section


Pursuant to the provisions of 7 Del. C., 7208, the Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section of the Division of Water, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (Department) will conduct a public hearing on Wednesday June 8, 2016, commencing at 6:00 PM at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company , 35554 Atlantic Avenue, Millville, DE .

The purpose of the hearing is to solicit the views of interested parties in specific regards to the proposed Statewide Activity Approval (SAA) for Shellfish Aquaculture in specific, designated “Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas (SADA)”.  If adopted, the Statewide Activity Approval (SAA) would be used to authorize shellfish aquaculture activities within specific portions of the SADA previously established by the Division of Fish and Wildlife under 7 DE Admin Code 3800 Shellfish Aquaculture Regulation.

The areas include Indian River Bay (IR-A), Rehoboth Bay (RB-A, RB-B, RB-C), and Little Assawoman Bay (LA-B and LA-D), specifically.  The intent of the SAA is to facilitate the issuance of subaqueous lands permits in these specific areas in support of the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s commercial shellfish aquaculture program.

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Corps questions Beach Cove proposed aquaculture sites

Coastal Point, March 18, 2016
By Laura Walter

It’s been a year since people got to discuss their feelings on proposed commercial oyster-growing in the area. Since then, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has questioned the appropriateness of Delaware’s proposed sites for future shellfish aquaculture.

The Corps is still reviewing Delaware’s permit application for 442 one-acre plots for aquaculture in the inland bays, and 5 percent of that has caused most of the uproar, which the Corps appears to have heard loud and clear.


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Deception in oyster farming approval process

Coastal Point, February 12, 2016
Guest column by Steve Callanen

How on earth was the Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) and the State’s Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) able to convince Delaware’s Legislature to unanimously vote to locate 442 acres of unsightly commercial floating cage oyster farms in the extremely shallow, environmentally unsuitable Inland Bays without the awareness of local stakeholder residents?

I have been trying to solve this mystery ever since Diane Maddex, president of Water’s Edge Homeowners Association (HOA); Jack Neylan, vice president of King’s Grant HOA; Dennis Klinzing, vice president of Seatowne HOA; and Jenifer Adams-Mitchell, co-owner of Coastal Kayak, attended a CIB Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on Sept. 18, 2014, to complain about the adverse impact of converting many acres of highly recreational Little Assawoman Bay public waters into restricted commercial oyster farming zones for the benefit of private for-profit use, which includes out-of-state interests.

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Long wait for farmed oysters in Delaware to end soon

Regulations years in the making that will allow oysters and clams to be farmed in Delaware will be finalized "soon," state officials say.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is reviewing public protests over the siting of shellfish lease plots in the state's inland bays and will provide updated locations shortly to the Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve the state program....

In Little Assawoman Bay, inland from Fenwick Island, Jenifer Adams-Mitchell is worried shellfishbeds will hurt her kayak and sailboat rental business, Coastal Kayaks.

"At low tides, kayakers and paddleboarders are not going to be able to go around them, on the inside of them, on the shoreline, which is where we like to keep all of our paddlers," Adams- Mitchell said.

She's also bothered that she did not know about the proposed shellfish regulations until a draft had already been written.

"Our problem with it is that so many of the people that live and work on the bay were not included in the initial decision-making process of where to place the plots," Adams-Mitchell said.

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COALITION FOR LITTLE ASSAWOMAN BAY, FENWICK ISLAND, DE 19944   703-606-1344   302-249-5879

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