Dorchester County Council Joins Watermen in Fight Against State - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dorchester County Council Joins Watermen in Fight Against State Project

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Two weeks following a public hearing held by the Department of Natural Resources for Dorchester County residents, the county council is pulling out all the stops to prevent fossilized oyster shell from being spread in the Little Choptank.

The project calls for one foot of fossilized shell and rock to be spread along 187 acres of clear bottom in the river to provide a hard substrate for oyster spat to cling to, creating a new oyster bed.  The DNR says this will provide an ecosystem for thousands of oysters which can further speed up efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries.

But watermen are not in agreement.  They say this would cover up the mud that crabs will soon be crawling out of, and make the area unharvestable in the future.  Boo Powley, chairman of the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition thinks the project doesn't make sense.

"It doesn't make any sense to dig shells from 40 feet under the ground in Florida and bring it up here, you don't know what kind of disease it's going to bring." said Powley.

He also believes the way to create new beds already exists in the thousands of acres of oyster shells that sank into the silt.

"We need to get up the stuff we already have here.  136 thousand acres of shells are in there, all we've got to do is open it up for oyster dredging like we have in the lower bay.  We've increased our beds by double." Powley said.

The DNR though says they have conducted studies that show oyster dredging has no effect on spat set, and does not increase oyster population as a whole.

The Dorchester County Council has taken the side of the watermen, and councilman Rick Price says they are working on letters to the Department of the Environment, Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Senators Mikulski and Cardin, and Representative Harris to stop the project.

"Our watermen spoke loud and clear, they work these waters every day and that is about half of this county's livelihood and we're trying to stand behind them as best we can to make sure this pans out in there best interest."

Price says the next step, which is being talked over by legal council, is to file an injunction to put the brakes on the project.

The Department of the Environment is open to public comment until May 9th.  The shells are set to be spread sometime in the spring.

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