Friday, April 18, 2014

Watermen Resist Rocky Erster Restoration Plan

Watermen, council agree to challenge Little Choptank project
In an effort to prevent chunks of granite and fossil oyster shells dredged from Louisiana swamps from being placed in the Little Choptank River, Dorchester watermen and the Dorchester County Council agreed Tuesday to seek an injunction in Dorchester County Circuit Court.

The project is known as the Little Choptank River Oyster Restoration by the agencies behind it, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It will be similar to these agencies’ efforts in Harris Creek, off the Choptank River.

Tuesday, Dorchester County Seafood Harvesters Association President Scott Todd told the Dorchester County Council about the DNR’s plans for the Little Choptank River, which he described as, “The most productive spot on Earth for oystering,” adding, “They are permanently going to damage it.”
. . .
Todd told the county council of concerns about placing fossil oyster shells, dug from 40 feet down in the muck of Louisiana swamps, in the Little Choptank. These fossil shells were initially excavated as part of restoration efforts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he said, and have been brought to Maryland by CSX Railroad.

“There are 125 railroad cars of it sitting at the terminal in Baltimore,” Todd said, filled with the Louisiana fossil shells, destined for placement in the Little Choptank.

Todd said the plan is to place the fossil shells on chunks of granite from a quarry in Havre de Grace. He said this granite has sharp edges, which has caused problems for watermen harvesting crabs with trotlines, which have been severed by the granite, a problem mentioned in information about the plan for the Little Choptank on the DNR website.

Among the watermen’s concerns are how the materials to be added in the Little Choptank will affect existing oyster bars. Todd told the council that the DNR has promised existing oysters will not be covered by the granite and fossil shells, a promise he and other watermen doubt.
I must reluctantly say I agree with the watermen's concerns as to the use of freshly broken granite as a substrate for oyster growth, especially when they have 125 rail cars of actual fossil oyster shell. No need to add additional navigational and fishing gear hazards, though, to be sure, I've lost lots of terminal tackle to oyster shells.

The use of fossil shell from Louisiana doesn't concern me much, although it would be wise to clean it well, and make sure it's not carrying any disease organisms, by heat treating it, or treating it with chlorine, for example.

The Little Choptank is almost straight across the Bay from us.  Head a little north around James Island, and there you are.

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