County Opposes Commercial Aquaculture Plan

SNOW HILL – The debate
over commercial shellfish aquaculture in bay waters near South Point continues
with the County Commissioners’ agreement this week to support residents’
ongoing concerns in a letter to the state of Maryland.

South Point residents
are worried that the 500-acre aquaculture area in Sinepuxent Bay, off their
waterfront, will interfere with recreational boating and water activities.

The state’s original
plan had pre-approved clam aquaculture leases in 1,080 acres of Sinepuxent Bay,
within one-third mile of shore.

That amount was split
into the 530-acre South Point area and a 331-acre area in Chincoteague Bay near
Girdletree known as Green Run. The aquaculture leasing areas were moved about a
mile from shore as well.

South Pointers are still
not satisfied, however.

Commission President Bud
Church, who represents the area, said he has received over 75 communications
from residents since the issue first came to public attention.

People are worried about
the negative impact of the stakes and other aquaculture infrastructure on
jetskiers and others using the water for recreation, Church said. People could
get hurt on the metal rods used in shellfish farming, opponents fear.

Ocean City has said it
would join Worcester County in supporting the South Pointers’ concerns if the
county also agrees with the residents.

“I honestly believe we
do need to write another letter,” Church said.

“My concern is that this
will happen down there and it will move northward to Sinepuxent Bay and
Assawoman Bay,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

Those areas need to be
kept recreational, Gulyas said.

“Their bullet points are
pretty compelling,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs of the resident concerns.

The commissioners need
to sit down with Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R.
Griffin face to face and find out what the state is thinking, Commissioner
Virgil Shockley said.

“Somebody’s going to end
up dead. It’s a bad idea,” Shockley said, who served on the aquaculture
committee three years ago. 

The state plan has “so
many holes” in it, Shockley said.

The letter should not
come across as anti-aquaculture, Shockley said. The commissioners do support
watermen trying to make a living.

The South Point
residents’ bullet points include support for aquaculture, Church said.

Another concern for
South Point residents is whether they or the lease owners would be responsible
if a storm washes aquaculture equipment up on their waterfront property. Church
called the bullet points “solid recommendations.”

The commissioners voted
unanimously to send a letter supporting the South Point concerns to Griffin.

Elected officials also
voted unanimously to hold an in-person meeting with Griffin to discuss aquaculture

“We’re not opposed to
aquaculture,” said South Point homeowner representative John Harrison.

“You guys have
legitimate concerns,” Shockley said. “I want to make sure we support the
watermen out here trying to make a living.”

The site near Girdletree
is more appropriate for commercial aquaculture, Harrison said. He suggested
planting some shellfish in the South Point area to improve water quality and
for recreational harvesting, not commercial.