CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester County Council has released the following statement about work being performed by Department of Natural Resources contractors in the Little Choptank River “and the harm being caused by such activity to water quality, to existing natural oyster bars and fauna, and to seafood harvesters,” the statement reads.
“By all accounts, the Little Choptank River is healthy and thriving. On or about April 9, DNR surveyed the Little Choptank from the Miss Kay and found an abundance of natural oysters and other aquatic life, indicating a productive tributary. This past Wednesday (April 30) DNR began dumping unknown materials into the Little Choptank, claiming it to be clean ‘fossilized shell’ or stone from a quarry in Florida that will help restore oysters in certain Bay tributaries.
“We request that DNR release the most recent Little Choptank survey report to the public before any more dumping of unknown materials as substrate for artificial bars.
“Based upon eyewitness accounts and preliminary testing of the materials that were permitted to be sampled from the DNR barge last week, the supposed “fossilized shell” from Florida has not been washed or cleaned before being dumped into the open water.
“The out-of-state shell/stone is covered with clays and other materials, and when dumped overboard a grey colored plume is readily visible. Dorchester County and local governments throughout the state, along with farmers, businesses and property owners, are spending millions of dollars to keep sediments from entering the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
“Astonishingly, in the name of oyster restoration, the state is dumping dirty shells/stone with sediments from Florida into one of the healthiest and most productive tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Anybody that cares about the Bay and the viability of Maryland’s seafood industry should be outraged.
“Dorchester County intends to conduct further testing on the materials being dumped for nutrients and other contaminants. In the meantime, the county is asking DNR to stop dumping unclean and untested materials in the Little Choptank and give the county permission to further test the materials where they are being stockpiled by the state.
“The county is also requesting that DNR and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coordinate with the county government and the local seafood industry to ensure that the activities being conducted by the State and federal government in our local waters are not harmful to the human environment.
“Roughly 50 percent of the county’s local economy is dependent upon the seafood industry. Activity by DNR that threatens the livelihoods of watermen does harm to local fishing communities and the local and regional economies. Dorchester County is standing shoulder to shoulder with local watermen, seafood industry organizations, property owners along the Little Choptank and our state and federal representatives to be sure that whatever activity is undertaken in our local waters does more good than harm. Today, we see nothing but harm.
“The county council has engaged special legal counsel to review the permits under which DNR is conducting (its) oyster restoration project in the Little Choptank and to confirm full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. With many legitimate questions and concerns deserving of answers from our State and federal government, we are requesting that all work by DNR contractors in the Little Choptank or any local waters be halted. What is the rush? Why dump materials now when crabs are still in the mud? Is the Harris Creek pilot tributary oyster restoration project working as designed?”