Letters to the Editor — November 21, 2014

Reader offers some oyster farming questions and answers


What possibly fooled the 200 citizens who attended the Oct. 6 meeting in the Millville fire house into thinking that proposed aquaculture in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay would not consist of many acres of unsightly floating plastic baskets and a maze of rigid PVC pipes extending above the water surface that would interfere with recreational power boating, sail boating, kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing and paddleboarding?

This mystery is at least partially solved by accessing a State website posting, dated Aug. 28, 2013, which quotes Gov. Markell as saying, “Due to the hard work of Speaker Schwartzkopf, Center for Inland Bays and its partners, DNREC, and the Department of Agriculture, we are establishing shellfish aquaculture in a responsible and beneficial way that respects the other activities in our bays.”

Furthermore, it declares that “DNREC will be charged with ensuring aquaculture takes place in areas where it does not conflict with other activities, such as boating and recreation.” (http://news.delaware.gov/2013/08/28/governor-signs-law-bringing-economic...)

Another State web site, which contains a synopsis of the bill (introduced on June 4, 2013), reaffirms that: “This bill is designed to minimize conflicts with existing uses of the Inland Bays.” (http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/LIS147.nsf/vwlegislation/5FA45ACF1EDC76AB8...)

It is suspected that this statement not only misled the public, but also many State legislators, such as Sen. Gerald Hocker, who has claimed that he was unaware of the locations of the proposed Inland Bays’ oyster farms and their objectionable appearance when the permitting legislation was voted upon.

Sen. Hocker has said he will write a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking that DNREC be instructed to select alternative aquaculture sites for those currently proposed in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay.

One cannot help wondering if the approximately 200 volunteer Sussex County waterfront oyster gardeners on Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays, who grew oysters at their docks in floating baskets at over 120 locations around the three bays during the 2013 season, were aware that their efforts were being used to help justify the introduction of many acres of unsightly commercial oyster farms in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay.

These dedicated folks reportedly supported “Inland Bays shellfish resource management decision-making, and development of the shellfish aquaculture legislative initiative HB 160 - an Act to Amend Title 3 and Title 7 of The Delaware Code Relating to Aquaculture.”

Oyster gardeners should be aware that “many thanks and much appreciation” was extended to them by John Ewart in his July 2013 report, titled, “Shellfish Aquaculture in Delaware’s Inland Bays Status, Opportunities and Constraints,” which documents the cooperative aquaculture promotional efforts, over the 15-year period from 1998 to 2013, of the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, DNREC, and the University of Delaware’s Sea Grant Program. (http://darc.cms.udel.edu/ibsa/Inland%20Bays%20Shellfish%20Aquaculture%20...)

What is the total taxpayer overhead expense of the lengthy aquaculture promotional efforts conducted by these organizations starting in 1998? Ewart says, “The Delaware Sea Grant program and other representatives of the Tiger Team stakeholder group will remain as active participants, and will continue to support and work with DNREC during the regulatory development process and beyond.”

DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife reportedly “is adding a new staff position Environmental Scientist III to be responsible for oversight of shellfish aquaculture in Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman Bays.”

Are these major ongoing expenses justified, especially in light of Ewart saying, “It is important to emphasize that shellfish aquaculture is not a panacea for estuarine nutrient pollution”?

How many years of high-volume commercial oyster farming will be required to recoup significant administrative costs? Does anyone have answers to these questions?

The Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee, which provides scientific and technical guidance to the Chesapeake Bay Program on measures to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, prepared a comprehensive scientific report in September 2013, which contains a judgment by experts expressing uncertainty about the proven ability of aquaculture to favorably impact water quality in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Those interested in the latest oyster farming environmental impact information ought to read this “Evaluation of the Use of Shellfish as a Method of Nutrient Reduction in the Chesapeake Bay” (http://www.chesapeake.org/pubs/307_Luckenbach2013.pdf).

It is rather amazing that Ewart has the audacity to acknowledge that “waterfront property owners may view shellfish farms as potentially restricting their riparian rights to utilize adjacent waters or they may object to the negative aesthetic of having a shellfish farm and the sights and sounds of daily operations interfering with waterfront views and the enjoyment of their property,” and then be party to proposing large, ugly oyster farming sites in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay.

Steve Callanen
Ocean View

Reader finds refreshing treat in Halloween candy dish


This year on Halloween my husband and I went to New Jersey for a fishing tournament. I was worried because we always give out candy and look forward to seeing the children dressed up for the night.

Well, I bought a cool candy dish that yells at you when you try to take some candy. I filled it and left it outside, trusting that no one would take it. When we returned on Sunday, not only was my candy dish still there, the honest children of our town actually left some candy in it!

I would just like to say thank you to all the kids who came by that night and commend their parents for raising such honest children. I promise next Halloween to be home and to give out the best treats in town.

Nancy J. Hull
Ocean View

Reader asserts sheriff powers have been stripped


The office of the elected sheriff is a time-honored tradition that our nation’s sheriffs diligently protect, as the office of sheriff represents direct democracy through the right of our citizens to choose their local chief law-enforcement officer.

Our nation’s sheriffs protect their citizens’ individual rights through the elected office of sheriff. The sheriff provides a check and balance as an elected county official directly responsible to the citizens that protects from undue influence by members of the county board or by other county officials.

There are also several checks upon the unfettered discretion of the sheriff. The voters can remove the sheriff from office during the election; the county board, subject in some states to appellate review, controls the budget and salary of the sheriff; and in extreme cases statutes authorize the removal of the sheriff from office for misfeasance or nonfeasance of duty.

Congratulations to the newly elected sheriff of Sussex County, Robert T. Lee, who has stated in several interviews and debates that he will obey the orders of county council: he will follow the orders of the one who writes the check.

Process server would be a better title for the office of sheriff in Sussex County, since county council has worked very hard to neutralize the ability of an elected sheriff to obey the time-honored oath to protect the rights of the citizenry.

Yes, the election is over and the sheriff who worked to be able to stand between over-reaching government and we the people has been decided. So, if the government, whether local, state or federal comes to take your guns, confiscate your land through “eminent domain” or serve a warrant unjustly with the blessing of county council, don’t call Mr. Lee. He will do the bidding of county council.

The shame is that Sussex County had an effective (as much as was allowed under the mandate of a liberal Superior Court) Republican sheriff and was undermined by its own party members in league with a prominent Democrat.

Many people did not understand the far-reaching effects of this election. But it fits right in with the liberal attack on the office of sheriff across the country in order to gain more control over the populace and take more protection under the law from we the people.

Sandy McKinley
Fenwick Island