Maryland is implementing a new streamlined and centralized aquaculture permitting process for growing oysters and other shellfish in Maryland waters. Thanks to a realignment of State requirements approved by the General Assembly earlier this year and a cooperative effort between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, qualifying applicants will now be able to submit a joint state-federal application and the Corps is expediting the approval process through issuance of the Regional General Permit.
Along with expanded sanctuaries and increased enforcement against poaching, one of the key components of Governor O’Malley’s 2010 Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan is a streamlined permit process. As of July 1, all aquaculture functions have been consolidated and transferred to DNR, which now coordinates all aquaculture permitting, issues water column leases and staffs the Aquaculture Coordinating Council and Aquaculture Review Board.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District approved the new permit, which goes into effect on August 15. The permit will be available for aquaculture projects up to 50 acres placed directly on the water bottom, 5 acres for aquaculture cages on the bottom and 3 acres for floating aquaculture projects. This covers activities such as shellfish seeding, rearing and cultivation as well as the installation and deployment of aquaculture structures including cages, floats, racks and trays.
Since September 2010, DNR has received 38 applications to lease nearly 1,600 acres. 24 of those applicants are commercial watermen. These permits all require federal approval by the Corps. On August 1, DNR began accepting applications for new aquaculture leases within oyster sanctuaries. In less than two weeks, DNR received 6 complete applications and expects more as word of this new opportunity spreads.
The Corps administers Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. These authorities require that a Department of the Army permit is issued for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waterways and wetlands; and for the placement of structures in, over, or under navigable waters.
A copy of the public notice and permit can be found online here: http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Wetlands%20Permits/public_notices.htm
source: MD DNR