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March 27, 2015     Cape Gazette
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March 27, 2015
 

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18 FRIDAY, MARCH 27- MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015 NEWS Cape Gazette U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS .Unclear if decision will be made on proposal By Maddy Lauria maddy@capegazette.com Unsightly gear. Navigation problems. Less room for recreation. These are just a few complaints some Inland Bays residents have raised in their opposition to Delaware's proposed com- mercial shellfish aquaculture program, and they hope the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes their concerns into con- sideration. Cape Region residents living along Little Assawoman Bay and Beach Cove in Indian River Bay began protesting the state's proposed aquaculture program in the fall, taking issue with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's public process and site selection for aquaculture leasing areas. Corps spokesman Richard Pearsall said the corps is reviewing more than 300 let- ters and emails received during a 30-day public comment period that ended Feb. 23. The corps has yet to decide whether it will hold a public hearing, he said, al- though one has been requested. Delaware has proposed eight shell- fish aqttaculture development areas, or SADAs, within the Inland Bays. The corps is considering the program for a regional provision to a nationwide permit; if granted, the regional provision would streamline and expedite individual leases. Opponents have honed in on specific leasing areas in Little Assawoman Bay and Beach Cove in Indian River Bay. Dela- ware's aquaculture program has identified 442 one-acre plots in the Inland Bays, with 118 leasable acres in Little Assawoman, 115 acres in Indian River and 209 acres in Rehoboth Bay for the harvesting of American eastern oysters. The harvest of hard clams will be permitted only in Little Assawoman Bay. Residents say notice insufficient Residents have argued DNREC failed to properly notify nearby homeown- ers of the specific lease sites, working hours and gear could cause disturbances, studie did not fully consider potential ef- fects on navigation, and that commercial aquaculture - specifically in Little Assa- woman Bay and Beach Cove - will destroy recreational opportunities for locals and tourists. "Beach Cove is a modest Inland Bay on which, for generations, a substantial number of owners, visitors, renters and tourists rely for unencumbered recre- ational pursuits," wrote Steve Plotkin Of Bethany Beach in a letter to the corps. "Commercial aquaculture is inherently in- compatible with prior recreational uses." Ocean View resident Steve Callanen agrees with Plotkin's sentiments, espe- cially considering the dense residential population along the Inland Bays, he said. Callanen submitted two letters to the corps - including a 20-page argument with photos and additional documents. In his letter, he argues local homeowners lacked representation on the Tiger Team, a group of stakeholders that helped de- velop Delaware's aquaculture program led by representatives from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays. "This highly flawed representation on the Tiger Team serves to discredit the entire shellfish aquaculture proposal process," Callanen wrote. "As a matter of public fairness and equity, this blatant Tiger Team oversight needs to be recog- nized'and cited as a primary reason for disallowing DNREC's shellfish aquacul- ture proposal." Oysters improve water quality While some oppose aquaculture in the bays, others have already invested in equipment in anticipation of obtaining a lease. El Chalabala, who led the Tiger Team while working as a restoration coordina- tor at the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, has since left the center to pursue a full-time waterman career, including shellfish aquaculture. He said aquaculture in the Inland Bays is a win-win because it will create a new industry, with new jobs and economic growth, as well as cleaning up the bays. "This will put oysters that triter 30 to 50 gallons per day per oyster in the bays, and there will be upwards of 250,000 oysters on one acre," he said. "lust the water quali- ty benefits are going to be great, especially if we can get a lot of people involved." If the corps approves Delaware's pro- posal, individual farmers would not have to obtain a permit directly from the corps. Still, farmers will go through a lengthy approval process before farming can begin. The process would include a state-approved application, a business and operation plan, testing of sites for clam density, a secured performance bond and liability insurance, survey of boundaries and the marking of corners of each lease site. SOME INLAND BAYS RESIDENTS are opposed to shellfish aquaculture in the concerns about navigation, recreation, aesthetics and operations. FILE PHOTOS bays, based on SHELLFISH DEVELOPMENT AREAS This map shows Shellfish Aquaculture De- This map shows Shellfish Aquaculture De- velopment Areas in Little Assawoman Bay. velopment Areas in Rehoboth Bay. Coastal Kayaks, a business that some res- idents say will be negatively impacted by aquaculture lease sites;is located between plots LA-C and LA-D. FILE PHOTO EJ Chalabalal former restoration coordinator at the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, shows off a wire rack that could be used by oyster farmers if legislation allows aquacul- ture in the Inland Bays. Chalabala is working to become a full-time waterman, with a stake in Delaware's aquaculture industry. Major investment - Chaiabala estimated each farmer will invest a minimum $50,000 to get started, not including the costs of insurance and a performance bond. Chaiabala said there Continued on page 21 GRAPHICS COURTESY OF DNREC DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE This map shows Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas in Indian River Bay. Beach Cove is located where SADA IR-B has been identified.