The Murky Minds of MDE Regulators Confuse Those

 By Richard Pelz
THE CHESAPEAKE

Things that make you go HUH????

Environmentalists have been talking about it for decades, politicians almost as long.

The Chesapeake Bay needs more oysters.

Jay Heberle of Calvert county got it. He understands. He took it all in. Then he decided to do something about it.

As a waterfront property owner and a good steward of the Bay he decided to grow oysters.

But a boat from the Maryland Department of the Environment came by and they saw it.

Finding this to be very important they came over to investigate. They returned and gave him a citation for growing oysters. Not the good kind of citation either. They cited him for growing too many oysters and gave him 60 days to correct the situation. So.. To bring the site into compliance he has to reduce the number of oysters. Huh?

I used to grow oysters at my mother in laws dock when she lived in St. Celement’s Shores.

The Maryland Department reclassified my area from open to restricted and I could no longer harvest directly from the area. The sampling station they used was was on the other side of St. Clements Bay near the mouth of a polluted creek. Well over a mile away.

Several years later Jon Farrington applied for an aquaculture permit to raise oysters commercially in Calvert County. In order to do this the Maryland Department of the Environment requires the water to be classified for shellfish production.

They need 30 samples over a 3 year period before they think they have enough data to classify the water. So in order to accomplish this they set up a monitoring station near the end of his dock. A year and a half later they changed the person who was doing the monitoring.

No two people do things the exact same way so the new monitoring person started testing the water 25 feet from where it had been done previously.

The head of the Shellfish waters section found out and disqualified all of the previous data and required the monitoring to start over. This is the same person that made the decision for St. Clements Bay. 25 feet is too far but over a mile is close enough? Huh?

But the tale of Thomas Taylor is even more interesting.

Thomas is an outstanding citizen and just a great guy to know. He is also a fellow Viet Nam Vet and and African American.

He has wanted to get into aquaculture for years.

Thomas has a vacation house on the Eastern Shore where he thought it would be great to grow oysters like we do at my operation on St. Jerome Creek. So following the state guidelines at the time he first filed for an aquaculture permit with the Department of Natural Resources. After a couple of months of not hearing anything he called to ask what was going on. He was told that his permit application had not been accepted because he did not have a facility to inspect. He did not have a dock. To me, most docks look pretty much the same.

But what do I know.

In order to get his application accepted he had to build a dock. Docks are expensive! Well Thomas being a persistent fellow went ahead and got a dock built. He then called and told DNR that there was now a dock they could come and inspect. He was told he would have to re-apply.

So Thomas went ahead and re-applied. He sent in the required paperwork, again.

Upon receiving the application, one of the first things DNR did was send the aquaculture permit application around to bunches of different State, Federal and Local officials. One of these officials was … you are jumping to conclusionsnow!

Yes you are Right it was the Department of the Environment and the director of the shellfish waters section.

She dispatched one of her teams to go take a water sample at Thomas’s dock. They got the sample and off it went to the lab.

The lab reported high fecal coliform numbers and if you read my last piece on Iced Tea you know what that means.

The numbers were so high the area was immediately declared prohibited waters.

Absolutely no oysters may be grown there! Maryland Department of the Environment then made up a map showing the prohibited area and sent it out to all kinds of people on their special mailing list.

What they had done when they made the map was to put the point of a compass in the exact middle of Thomas’ Dock and draw a circle.

That Circle was 100 meters in diameter. That is just a little over 300 feet.

Thomas’ dock is 200 feet long.

So you get the picture.

A dock with a big black circle around it. Everything outside of the circle remained completely open to harvest. While everything inside the circle was now prohibited. We raised Cain together and finally got granted a meeting.

During the meeting I suggested that Thomas be allowed to raise seed oysters in tanks on the dock and we would run the intake line outside of the circle.

The number 2 in command of the Shellfish waters section exclaimed. We will just make circle bigger!

and the Bay needs more oysters……………………. Huh?

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