Watermen, Dorchester Council Concerned About Oyster Project Perm - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Watermen, Dorchester Council Concerned About Oyster Project Permit Modifications

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Since the end of May, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Department of the Environment have been dumping fossilized oyster shells and stones in the Little Choptank River to create new oyster habitats.  But it appears just before the dumping began, there was a last minute request to alter the permit.

According to a letter sent to the Dorchester County Council by the Army Corps of Engineers, the original permit for the project allowed for materials between 3 and 6 inches in length to be put in the Little Choptank.

However, the council's letter states that on May 21, the DNR requested the permit be changed to allow shells between 1 and 6 inches, and a maximum size of 9 inches to be put in the river, the logic being that the smaller sized shells would have less impact on watermen's equipment.
But what has watermen concerned is no one knew about the change until the letter arrived late last week.

"The last modification to the permit they had was on the depth.  There was public hearing, there was public notice. The Army Corps of Engineers granted this change with no notice to anybody.  No notice to the watermen, no notice to the newspapers, media, nothing," said Rob Newberry, spokesperson for the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition.

The letter states that because the change was not contrary to public interest, the permit proceeded without further public discussion on that matter.

The Department of Natural resources responded to our request for comment with the following - "Upon a review of the permit in May, the Department noted a minor technical error in the wording of one sentence in the permit and brought it to the attention of the appropriate representative of the Corps of Engineers.  Both agencies agreed that, in order to accurately reflect the intent of the agencies when the permit was issued, "i.e. 3-6" needed to be changed to "e.g. 1-6, and not to exceed 9."

But the lack of immediate transparency has local officials concerned.
"They are just running amok, just doing what they want how they want with no concern to us as local elected officials and the watermen," said Dorchester County Councilman Tom Bradshaw.

Bradshaw said the council plans to discuss a letter invoking "coordination" efforts at their council meeting on Sept. 16.  He says the goal is to bring all parties involved in the project together to discuss what the impact has been and will be to the local area.

The project is still ongoing as of this report.  WBOC reached out to the DNR for more detail on why the change was requested, but no further information has been sent yet.  This story will be updated if a response is received.

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