Aquaculture plan getting another public meeting

Date Published: 
April 29, 2016

Talk about commercial shellfish aquaculture in the inland bays is continuing, officially and otherwise. The public can speak at a public hearing on Wednesday, June 8, hosted by Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC). The hearing begins at 6 p.m. at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach.

That is good news for some residents along the Little Assawoman Bay who requested a hearing to address their fear that an overabundance of pole markers will be intrusive and unsightly.

Moreover, while many locals were excited to see DNREC exclude areas such as Beach Cove from current plans, those acres aren’t 100 percent off the table. Residents want assurance that those locations will be permanently excluded from future aquaculture plans in the Indian River Bay, Little Assawoman Bay and Rehoboth Bay.

The public hearing is an unexpected continuation of the public comments period, originally scheduled to close April 12. A hearing wasn’t intended unless DNREC Secretary David Small determined it to be in the public interest, or if DNREC received a written meritorious objection to the application.

“Subsequently, the Department determines that the public interest warrants holding a public hearing on the proposed Statewide Activity Approval,” according to the DNREC legal notice.

Comments are allowed regarding the proposed Statewide Activity Approval (SAA), which is being reviewed by the Wetlands & Subaqueous Lands Section. The SAA would facilitate the issuance of permits for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Delaware’s Inland Bays.

In March, DNREC revealed that it will only pursue 343 acres as “Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas” (SADA) in the inland bays, instead of the 442 acres originally proposed.

Since a public hearing is coming, the public comments period has been extended until June 8. People may speak aloud or submit written comments that night or submit written comments in advance.

People wishing to speak are being encouraged to preregister by June 6, to determine the order of speakers at the public hearing.

Registration or written comments should be emailed to HYPERLINK “mailto:Robert.Haynes@state.de.us” Robert.Haynes@state.de.us. or mailed to Robert P. Haynes, Esq., Senior Hearing Officer; DNREC Office of the Secretary; P.O. Box 1401, 89 Kings Hwy.; Dover, Delaware 19901.

The Delaware State Legislature passed the shellfish aquaculture bill in 2013, seeing it as a way to create economic growth and help clean the bays, as oysters are known to filter water impurities. DNREC was given the authority to create regulations and pick the sites for development.

The public notice for the hearing and the background on the aquaculture plan can be found online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/Pages/ShellfishAquaculture.aspx.