State transparency about oyster lease applications have been a major hot button issue in the Maryland section of the Bay. Now, the state is making it easier for the community to know when someone applies for an aquaculture lease, and stay updated on the status of proposed leases.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has just launched a set of online tools, including a database that is updated in near-real time and an email notification system. DNR says it got feedback from aquaculturists, commercial watermen, community members and county leaders.
“During our statewide listening sessions, we heard time and again that community leaders wanted to be alerted about proposed aquaculture projects earlier in the permitting process,” Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer said.
The online system will provide information on pending and proposed commercial shellfish lease applications when they are received by the department, including the applicant, county, body of water where the project is proposed, and its size, status, and type. Once an application is under review, a map will also be available.
A recent fight boiled over in St. Mary’s County, where some waterfront homeowners and residents claim they weren’t notified of commercial oyster leases until after they were approved. Bay Bulletin reported on the heated public hearing in August.
The new shellfish lease database will include completed lease applications received since January 1 , 2018. An application listed as “complete” does not mean that it is approved. DNR says all proposed leases are subject to change through out the permitting process.
-Meg Walburn Viviano