Residents raise concern over aquaculture project

By Jon Offredo
The News Journal
July 11, 2015

 About 200 people turned out Saturday morning at a public meeting expressing concerns over a proposed aquaculture project in the Indian River Bay. The waters, residents said, are not an appropriate spot for 24 one-acre oyster farming plots.

“It would ruin the home values for anybody that is in the area,” said Cary Mason. “It would change the way we use this beautiful bay land.”

The residents that showed up Saturday expressed concerns about everything from the effect on property value, to safety issues the project could cause in the open water.

“It’s a place where you can teach your kids about the water,” said Seth Hamed. “I just worry with these obstacles that some kid is going to be on a tube and something is going to happen. You know how the movie is going to end… I could care less about aesthetics.”

The comments come as residents from the area near Bethany Beach and Ocean View step up their opposition to the state’s plan to allow shellfish aquaculture in a small area of Indian River Bay.

The residents contend that space is tight for shellfish aquaculture and the only available spots in the bay would be in the navigation channel area boat owners use to reach the bay and inlet.

Delaware's shellfish aquaculture regulations went into effect Aug. 11, 2014, after public workshops, meetings and a public hearing. But there was concern Saturday morning that not enough outreach was done to inform neighbors of the project, resulting in crucial information about environmental concerns and public trust issues getting missed by planners.

Eight homeowners associations have banded together to hire legal representation, as well as an environmental consultant to try and resolve disputes with the plan.

James Bond, who helping lead the Coalition to Save Beach Cove, said residents are not opposed to aquaculture.

“Personally it is something I believe in,” Bond said. “[But] aquaculture would not be successful in Beach Cove.”

Bond said he and other residents want aquaculture to happen in Delaware, but for it to be done appropriately in locations that work for neighbors and sea farmers alike.

Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, who was at the meeting Saturday, said he is working with DNREC officials to find some sort of solution.

“I have not heard one person say they are against aquaculture, nobody, but let’s do it the right way and put it in the right place,” Hocker said.

State officials are awaiting Army Corps approval of a nationwide permit that covers aquaculture for the preselected areas in the state’s inland bays.

Contact Jon Offredo at (302) 678-4271, on Twitter @JonOffredo or

Beach Cove not sustainable site

By Calhoun Bond
Cape Gazette

Jul 10, 2015

In August 2014, DNREC published new regulations concerning Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas in the Inland Bays; one of the SADAs (desig­nated IR-B, planned for oyster aquaculture) comprises 29 acres of Beach Cove, just south of the Indian River Inlet.

Beach Cove is quite small, approximately half mile by three-quarter mile, and is surrounded by residential communities, except for the south end whose shorelines are preserved natural areas. SADA IR-B will comprise more than a quarter of the navigable area of Beach Cove - and almost all of the open water area frequently used for recreation and navigation.

My neighbors and I from around the cove were greatly surprised and saddened to hear of this new development (public notifications were not well advertised). As a biologist who has had a residence near Beach Cove for 50 years, I would like to make this argument: While Beach Cove is a great spot for water recreation and nature study, it is a terrible spot for culturing oysters.

Please consider these facts: ­The tidal waters at site IR-B are too shallow to allow for sufficient submersion of oysters, particularly at low tide, when depths rarely exceed 18 inches or less in many spots.

During the winter, Beach Cove freezes over completely at multiple times and sometimes for weeks. This past winter (2015) we had 6 complete freezes, one freeze lasted almost 22 days.

Aquaculture Site IR-B abuts and may actually be inside Excluded Seafood Waters (excluded due to public health concerns).

These parameters suggest that any oysters living (for a time) in Beach Cove must deal with daily tidal exposures to very shallow water (if not open air) and with multiple, extensive winter freezes. Beach Cove oysters would also be living in or near waters that are excluded-for-public- health. These do not sound like very good conditions for the long-term culture of oysters for human consumption.

It is instructive to recall the fate of an experimental oyster reef that was established by DNREC at the James Farm Ecological Preserve, very near to Beach Cove.

The reef, constructed in 2001, experienced severe mortality events due to adverse conditions: these events were in 2003 (summer algal bloom: 40% mortality) and in 2004 (winter freezes: 70 percent mortality). The project was discontinued in 2006, after tests showed extensive infection by the Dermo parasite (probably due to oyster stress) at the reef.

One can foresee similar problems at the proposed site in Beach Cove. We know that oysters filter the water and remove particulate matter, but it is an overstatement to claim that oyster aquaculture will clean the waters of Beach Cove. Oyster filtration rates seem impressive in controlled tank studies, but studies on the effects of cultured oysters on wild sites are inconclusive. For example, recent studies from the Cheasapeake Bay show that scientists can find no clear relationship between cultured oysters and cleaner bay water.

We should also remember that clams, which already live in Beach Cove, have similar filtration rates to those of oysters. Clams, with their digging, are much more resilient to weather and water changes than oysters, who can’t move at all as adults. Perhaps we should leave the clams alone to filter Beach Cove (and provide wild-caught food for some of its visitors). My neighbors and I around Beach Cove support sustainable aquaculture, but the above arguments strongly suggest that SADA site IR-B is not a sustainable site for oyster aquaculture.

DNREC should thus exclude Beach Cove from its Aquaculture plan and concentrate on other SADA sites (such as those in Rehoboth Bay), which present much more viable and sustainable conditions.

Calhoun Bond, Ph.D 
Professor of Biology 
Greensboro College


Oyster farming in Indian River Bay questioned

Oyster farming in Indian River Bay questioned

By Molly Murray
News Journal

Beach Cove residents near Bethany Beach have stepped up their opposition to state plans to allow shellfish aquaculture in the small area of Indian River Bay. On Saturday, they will host a public meeting from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the VFW Mason Dixon Post near Ocean View.

Among their concerns: that some 50-acres of the cove along the southwest, northeast and southeast corners of the cove, along with the zones around marinas and man-made lagoons are already off limits for shellfish harvest under state sanitation regulations. That would leave the center of the cove open to aquaculture but that area includes the navigation channel area boat owners use to reach the open waters of the bay and Indian River Inlet and the sheltered recreation area used by area residents.

The area "is unsuitable for shellfish aquaculture," said Edward Launay, an environmental consultant hired by the legal team that represents eight homeowner associations. The groups have joined forces and have been meeting with state environmental officials in an effort to resolve the matter. But so far, there has been no resolution.

In the meantime, the state is completing work on a response to the Army Corps of Engineers. The federal permitting agency raised similar questions about the restricted shellfish areas and navigation issues at Beach Cove when they reviewed a state request for permits.

"We have recently completed extensive water depth and horizontal navigation width field measurements requested by the Corps in areas located between proposed Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas [SADA] and the adjoining shorelines," wrote Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Saveikis, in an email response to The News Journal. "We also, as requested by the Corps, are verifying select shellfish harvest closure areas. We are currently analyzing the data and findings, and plan to respond to the Corps within the next two weeks."

View of Beach Cove, which is the part of Indian River Bay that backs up to the west side of Coastal Highway south of the inlet bridge. (Photo: JASON MINTO/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

In earlier interviews, state officials said they planned to allow the permit process to play out rather than make changes midway through the federal review.

"I'm all for aquaculture in the inland bays in places that make sense," said James Bond, an area property owner and one of the leaders in the effort to have Beach Cove stricken as a potential shellfish aquaculture zone.

Bond said the cove is shallow, has a muddy bottom and because of heavy development, the marinas and the banned harvest shellfish zones is unsuitable for a commercial shellfish growing operation.

Other preselected areas within Indian River, Rehoboth and Little Assawoman bays are more suitable, he said.

Delaware is the only coastal state without a shellfish aquaculture industry, and the Center for the Inland Bays estimated it could have a $6 million to $28 million economic impact on the estuary.

Beach Cove is part of the Indian River Bay that backs up to the west side of Coastal Highway, south of the inlet bridge. (Photo: JASON MINTO/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

In nearby Virginia, commercial, farm-raised clams and oysters are big business. In 2014 sea farmers there sold 243 million farm-raised hard clams and almost 40 million cultured oysters.

Delaware's shellfish aquaculture regulations went into effect Aug. 11, 2014, after months of public workshops, meetings and a public hearing. State officials had a year to develop the regulations to stay within that legislative mandate.

They are awaiting Army Corps approval of a nationwide permit that covers aquaculture for the preselected areas in the inland bays. The idea is that individual growers would be covered under the state permit and would not have to get individual, federal permits.

State officials say they followed the instructions they received through the legislation: maintain safe navigation corridors and establish parameters for a working shellfish aquaculture industry.

But Launay said the review of proposed shellfish growing areas – at least in Beach Cove – did not take into consideration the existing shellfish harvest closure areas, the intense development around the shoreline, the recreational use and limited navigational channels.

Reach Molly Murray at (302) 463-3334 or Follow@MollyMurraytnj on Twitter.

Beach Cove is not the place for aquaculture

Beach Cove is not the place for aquaculture

Cape Gazette
By The Hamed family
Jul 02, 2015

Navigational and environmental concerns, as well as the unique population density around Beach Cove, are very sound reasons why Beach Cove is simply the wrong place for a commercial aquaculture operation.

But what about elimination of recreational use?

Recreational use inspires so many to visit and enjoy the Inland Bays.

We have chosen to own a home in Cotton Patch Hills because Beach Cove gives us access to the Inland Bays.

This easy access and usage has inspired our kids to volunteer for the CIB over the years and to be better stewards of the Inland Bays.

Why is it that “recreational uses and users of the Inland Bays” are being ignored?

Beach Cove is one of those few special places, due to its protected nature, where a parent can take kids tubing, teach them to water ski or sail or windsurf or paddleboard.

If such a commercial oyster farming operation were to be located in Beach Cove and the five-to eight-foot-high PVC posts and floating cages were placed in what is the only real navigable part of this cove, logic would dictate that this would be an accident waiting to happen.

Beach Cove residents are not against aquaculture in the Inland Bays.

There are simply much more logical and more safe locations.

The Hamed family
Cotton Patch Hills


Shellfish farmers edging closer to expedited permits

Cape Gazette
By Maddy Lauria
June 15, 2015

Shellfish farmers edging closer to expedited permits: DNREC Secretary hopes to issue leases by the end of the year

"INLAND BAYS — Shellfish farmers are getting closer to harvesting oysters in Delaware's Inland Bays, and state officials hope to issue leases for oyster farming by the end of the year.

The state's program may need some tweaking, however, based on input from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District." Read more...

Army Corps responds to Delaware aquaculture application

By Rachael Pacella
Delmarva Now
May 29, 2015

"Corps asks DNREC to add navigational corridor through Beach Cove.

On a recent tour of the Inland Bays, Rep. John Carney asked Delaware's top environmental official if the concerns with commercial aquaculture have been settled.

They have not, but they did take a step closer following a meeting between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control this week." Read more...

Coastal Point Letter to Editor: Start Over with Shellfish Plans

Link to article...

Coastal Point
Letters to the Editor — February 20, 2015

Reader: Start over with shellfish plans

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Gov. Jack Markell and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.

Just about now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deciding whether to grease the skids for your administration’s decision to impose industrial shellfishing operations in recreational waters in Sussex County, in places surrounded by hundreds of residential homes.

These are places where grandchildren learn to water ski and to fish, where families from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, from Maryland and Washington, D.C., and, of course, from all over Delaware travel annually to enjoy the fun and sun of coastal Delaware. Places where hundreds of businesses, including popcorn and ice cream stands, kayak rentals, music venues, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels earn their living. Places from which Delaware rightly earns a reputation as a beautiful, clean, family coastal resort.

You didn’t make the decision to install industrial shellfishing in these idyllic resort neighborhoods of Sussex County. The decision was made in a deeply flawed process that made no announcement to the people who would be most significantly affected and invited no public comment from them.

Some 150 letters opposing the plan have now reached the Army Corps of Engineers, written by citizens who were blindsided when your administration mapped their adjacent recreational waters as industrial sites. In a small state like Delaware, that’s quite an uprising.

Your [Department] of Natural Resources & Environmental Control staff has toured the waters where industrial shellfishing doesn’t make sense, and they now understand why. Elected officials who favor aquaculture, like me, are calling on Delaware to modify its plan.

If the Corps of Engineers approves your administration’s request to quickstep approvals for commercial shellfishing where young waterskiers and boaters now enjoy Delaware’s waters, your goal of nurturing a new shellfishing industry in Delaware will be dogged for years with challenges. Aquaculturists — not environmentalists, but commercial fishing interests, mostly from other states — will face persistent uncertainty over whether their commercial farms might be uprooted at any moment by those challenges.

There is a route to encouraging environmentally and economically sound aquaculture in Delaware. But that route does not include installing industrial operations in residential, recreational areas.

Right now — before the Army Corps of Engineers issues its decision on Delaware’s flawed application — is the time to pull the plug, retract the proposal and fix it. Don’t give the federal agency a reason to throw it back in Delaware’s face. Recall the plan, and give DNREC a chance to fix it by redrawing its maps after proper public engagement.

Ralph Begleiter
Ocean View

Hocker looking at jobs, wages and aquaculture for new legislative session

Hocker looking at jobs, wages and aquaculture for new legislative session

Jobs and the economy will be at the forefront of the agenda for state Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th) this coming year. Additionally, Hocker said he would like to focus on finding a compromise on aquaculture and getting additional police protection downstate.

“It’s something I get a lot of calls on. It’s going to be a priority in how we deal with it,” he explained. Hocker said he would like to see a larger state police presence, especially in Sussex County.

Coalitions prepared to fight aquaculture regulations

Coalitions prepared to fight aquaculture regulations

"We all believe aquaculture is a great thing, it’s just a bad, bad spot for it.”

"It has been three months since David Green heard about aquaculture coming to Beach Cove, and in that time he’s done a lot.

He has talked to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, as well as Gov. Jack Markell’s office – working with state, federal and even international agencies was normal for Green, a retired tax lawyer. He and others have filed information requests to find out exactly why Beach Cove was selected as a site."

Delaware aquaculture permit up for Corps review

Delaware aquaculture permit up for Corps review

"By the time opponents of Delaware's shellfish aquaculture plans learned about the program in September 2014, the state law was a year old and regulations to manage the program had been in place for more than a month.

But for the next 30 days, they will have a chance to tell federal regulators about their concerns – concerns that include oyster and clam farms blocking navigation, access to deeper water and introduction of an unsightly and smelly industrial use to recreational areas."

Stop hating on NIMBY's. They're saving communities.

Washington Post
October 23, 2014
By Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the history of science at Harvard University.

"The term NIMBY – “not in my back yard”– has long been used to criticize people who oppose commercial or industrial development in their communities. Invariably pejorative, it casts citizens as selfish individualists who care only for themselves, hypocrites who want the benefits of modernity without paying its costs.

Communities and individuals who oppose fracking, nuclear power, high voltage power lines, and diverse other forms of development have all been accused of NIMBYism. It’s time to rethink this term."


Oyster Farming Industry Would Harm Inland Bays

Delaware Voice
by Steve Callanen
October 22, 2014

"The 200 irate citizens who gathered at the Millville Fire House on Oct. 6 to voice their extreme displeasure with the state’s unknown plans for establishing a large commercial oyster farming industry in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay might be interested to learn the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Fish and Wildlife Division’s mission statement is to “conserve and manage the fish and wildlife resources of the state, to provide safe and enjoyable fishing, hunting, and boating opportunities to the citizens of Delaware and its visitors.”

The proposed oyster farm industries in Beach Cove and Little Assawoman Bay are not consistent with these objectives."


Aquinnah will pay to clean up failed oyster farming operation

MV Times

by Steve Myrick - Sep 22, 2010

This week, Aquinnah town officials said they plan to take steps to clean up scores of plastic mesh bags used to raise oysters. The bags now litter the western shoreline of Menemsha Pond.

The bags, most of them derelict, make a final footnote to an ambitious project to raise oysters that began with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in 2002.

For years, rafts of tribe-owned black bags and a work barge floating in Menemsha Pond generated complaints from property owners unhappy that their view of the pond was interrupted, and especially unhappy with the litter generated when pieces of foam floats and bags broke free and washed up on the shore.

Evaluation of the Use of Shellfish as a Method of Nutrient Reduction in the Chesapeake Bay


The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), which provides scientific and technical guidance to the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) on measures to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, prepared the following cited September 2013 report entitled, Evaluation of the Use of Shellfish as a Method of Nutrient Reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.  This report contains a recent judgment by experts expressing uncertainty about the proven ability of aquaculture to impact water quality in theChesapeake Bay area.  Unfortunately this report was not published until after House Bill 160 was signed into law, on August 28, 2013permitting shellfish aquaculture in Delaware’s Inland Bays."

Politics has become the art of the impossible: keeping people happy

Cape Gazette
By Don Flood
October 14, 2014

People enjoy taking potshots at politicians, but a recent story reminded me just how difficult it is to govern in modern-day America.Last year, Delaware’s General Assembly passed a bill allowing aquaculture - the farming of oysters and clams - in the Inland Bays, which include the Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays and the Delaware portion of the Big Assawoman Bay.


Shellfish regs take heat at ice cream social: 200 crowd meeting to oppose location of aquaculture sites

Cape Gazette
By Chris Flood
October 14, 2014

The crowd may have enjoyed the ice cream, but they weren't in the mood for being social.

Nearly 200 strong, owners of property near the Inland Bays turned out in force Oct. 6 to the Millville Fire Department to oppose proposed shellfish farming sites in the Beach Cove area of Indian River Bay and an area of Little Assawoman Bay just north of Fenwick Island.