Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Army, Virginia at the Peace Table

Virginia, Army Corps pick an oyster plan
Instead of spending nothing and doing little this year, Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers have reached a compromise of sorts over how to help restore oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, state officials said Tuesday.

The deal, reached after a lengthy meeting Monday in Norfolk, will allow about $1.6 million in federal funds to finance oyster research and repairs to man-made oyster reefs in the Great Wicomico River, a Bay tributary in northeastern Virginia.

Left unspent, however, is about $900,000 approved earlier by Congress, said Jack Travelstead, state fisheries director. Travelstead said the state will likely ask the Army Corps to hold the money until they can resolve a larger dispute over how best to revive oyster populations ravaged by disease, pollution and lost habitat.
 It sounds to me like the Army (and the cash) have the upper hand in this fight, and got most of the concessions.  The oyster reefs in the Greater Wicomico are reefs that the Army Corps as created to its liking and are off limits (at least in theory) to harvest.  The major concession to Virginia appears to be that some of the funds will go to  research in Virginia and there will be a 'joint policy committee formed:
To help guide future projects and avoid showdowns like the one this year, Travelstead said, the state and corps also agreed to form a joint policy committee, which will include environmentalists, oyster growers, merchants, scientists and regulators.
As I have said previously, from an oyster point of view, I tend to favor the Army Corps position.  It's insane to to continue to commercially harvest the oysters on the grounds that you are trying to restore when oyster populations are so far below historical levels..

Previous articles on the war between Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers here, here, here and here.

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