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.
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