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New bill would answer bay homeowner concerns about shellfish farming

John Lee

A new bill in Delaware’ General Assembly would address homeowner concerns about shellfish farming in the Little Assawoman Bay.


Aquaculture regulations were approved in 2013, but the program still not taken off due to a slow permitting process from the Army Corps of Engineers and several concerns from homeowners along the Inland Bays. Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View), the primary sponsor for the bill, said he’s spoken with several homeowners along the Little Assawoman Bay about their about objections to pole markings that would identify and separate acre plots in the bay.


Hocker said there’s no need for pole markings, since only hard clams can be farmed in the Little Assawoman Bay, and they don’t float on the surface in cages like oysters do.


The bill outlines each plot would be marked by small floating buoys instead of pole markers.


“And there would be no danger in the boat hitting anything because clamming would be all bottom clamming in a sandy area,” Hocker said.


The pole markings is just one concern of the Coalition for the Little Assawoman Bay, a group of homeowners. Diane Maddex, the founder of the coalition, said after David Small, the former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, passed regulations about the program in December 2016, the group had three main concerns. 


Maddex said the group wanted to make sure the plot reductions Small announced in the Little Assawoman Bay - a 75 percent reduction to 43, would be made permanent.


“We get upwards of 10 or 12,000 people renting just from Coastal Kayak alone which is right next to where two of the plot areas were to be,” Maddex said. “So I do think they have recognized the problem.”


The coalition also wanted to limit farming in the bay to hard clams only, and because of that, remove big tall pole markings that DNREC planned on implementing in the bay. 


All of these points the coalition made are addressed in the bill. State Rep. Ronald Gray, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said this legislation ensures acres off limits would stay off limits.


“Unless we put something into law like this bill does, someone could ask to have those leased and DNREC could allow them to be leased w/out asking the public again if that would be okay,” Gray said.


The bill is waiting to be considered.

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