Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MD DNR: Late to a Very Important Date

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has missed the date by which it had to reply to interrogatories (written questions from one party in a case) after being served discovery requests in Dorchester County Circuit Court over the 2013 menhaden regulations.

“We’ve been working steadily on it,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wazenski, who is handling the case for DNR, said. “It’s a significant amount of information that has to be reviewed and prepared for production. We’ve given them a date by which we will respond and are preparing to do that.”

Watermen and plaintiffs Burl Lewis and Larry “Boo” Powley, who are a part of the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition that is supporting the case, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 18 alleging DNR illegally promulgated menhaden regulations.

Along with the motions the plaintiffs filed in October, discovery requests were served to DNR that asked for various documents and numbers. DNR had until Dec. 5 to respond.

Many of the interrogatory requests relate to the plaintiff’s allegations. For instance, DNR is being asked to turn over any economic impact study, ecological study and a fair and equitable fishery management plan, all of which are required before setting regulations.

Also, the plaintiffs want DNR to show its numbers for the poundage of menhaden caught between 2009 and 2013, since they believe the species is not being overfished in the Chesapeake Bay and that there are disparities in the numbers DNR gave regarding the poundage of menhaden caught in a given day that would not be possible for watermen using pound nets.

Officials for DNR previously said that the higher-than-normal numbers have been fixed and were an error due to a new electronic filing system.
Although I am on "DNR's side" regarding the need to regulate menhaden, I think that any regulatory agency granted the powers of setting deadlines, fees and penalties owes it's "customers" a timely response, especially in matters of law.

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