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 joffredo@delawareonline.com