After years of scrutiny, federal regulators have given a qualified green light to a controversial Maryland plan to dredge old oyster shells from an ancient reef near Baltimore — a project intended to enhance oyster habitat elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay, but also to help the sagging commercial fishery.I've only fished on Man O'War Shoal once, on a commercial trip with Pete where fish were hard to find. We found a few there, which made it better than most other places that day; but I wasn't that impressed. But I have heard there are times when it's on fire.
The Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a provisional permit on May 17 to the state Department of Natural Resources to take up to 5 million bushels of shells from Man O’ War Shoal just outside the mouth of the Patapsco River and use the shell to replenish or rebuild oyster reefs at other Bay locations.
The Corps’ conditional approval comes after nearly three years of effort by the DNR to address questions and concerns raised about the project, which is opposed by environmentalists, recreational anglers and even some watermen.
But now, having won the federal go-ahead, state officials appear in no hurry to act on it. They haven’t even informed those in favor of dredging the shoals about the Corps’ decision.
Man O’ War Shoal harbors up to 100 million bushels of shells in its 446-acre footprint, according to a 1988 survey. Though productive long ago, it has relatively few live oysters now, despite repeated efforts to reseed it.