Public Comment Period Open for Delaware Aquaculture
SUSSEX COUNTY, Del.- The debate over aquaculture continues to grow in Sussex County over the future of the industry in the Inland Bays. A public comment period opened on January 21, and will continue until February 23. At the end of this month, the Army Corp of Engineers will make a decision about whether to allow, disallow or amend aquaculture guidelines crafted by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. They will also decide whether or not a public hearing is needed for these areas.
There are eight locations proposed by DNREC, many of which have created fierce opposition from neighbors.
Dennis Klinzing, who lives on the Little Assawoman Bay said he was against the aquaculture farms coming to the area. He argued that these farms would not only create an eye sore, but also that it would make boat navigation and other recreational activity difficult, if not impossible.
"We're not going to be sharing," he said. "Not sharing. When you're going to put 118 acres-worth of aquaculture in this bay - that's simply replacing the use of the bay and making it industrial rather than recreational."
Klinzing isn't alone. At an October meeting in Millville, hundreds of people came to voice their concerns with the proposed DNREC regulations. Other than the large coalition of neighbors from the Little Assawoman Bay, there were also many from Beach Cove, which is along the Indian River Bay.
But there is also a lot of support for the project for a variety of reasons. John Ewart, a Aquaculture and Fisheries Specialist for the Sea Grant of Delaware said the benefits are both environmental and economic.
First of all, Ewart said that one oyster can filter 30 gallons of water per day at a conservative estimate, which would help limit pollution in the bay.
"There are a range of environmental benefits," he said. "That don't answer all the questions or solve all the problems of pollution in our estuary. But really are a big step in the right direction to help deal with that."
Beyond the environmental possibilities, Ewart also said that the action could create a whole new industry that could boost the local economy. Ewart said that it is reasonable for the first state to emulate a state like Rhode Island, which has a nearly $5 million industry.
One of those people who would benefit directly from an affirmative vote from the Army Corp of Engineers is Steve Friend, who said he would set up both oyster and clam farms in the bays if he were allowed. Friend said he has already invested about $45,000 into aquaculture materials.
"It's discouraging," he said. "That it's taken this long for something when the governor signed the bill in June. And July we was supposed to start this. And it's just been one thing after another."