Public Hearings - Application for Shellfish Aquaculture Lease

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PUBLIC HEARING - January 27, 2015

Application for Shellfish Aquaculture Lease

A public hearing was held today at 6:05 p.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, 400 High Street, Chestertown, MD, the purpose of the hearing will be to receive public comments relating to an Application for Shellfish Aquaculture Lease submitted by Scott Budden, Orchard Point Oyster Co., LLC. The lease area applied for is located in the Chester River, Kent County, Maryland approximately 2000 feet north of Ringgold Point adjacent to Eastern Neck. The applicant proposes to place cages on bottom up to a maximum of 18” high for the purpose of culturing Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and to harvest using methods approved by The Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

County Commissioners William Pickrum, Ronald Fithian, and William Short were in attendance as well as Ernest Crofoot, County Administrator and County Attorney.

Commissioner Pickrum read the public notice into the record, and the procedures for testifying.

Commissioner Fithian clarified that the Commissioners do not have a say as to whether the license or project is approved. The decision will be made by the State, as the project will take place in the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. All related licensing is issued by the State of Maryland. Commissioner Fithian contacted The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and requested a Public Hearing be held in Kent County, and was advised that the hearing would be held in Queen Anne’s County. The Board felt it necessary to give the public an opportunity comment on the application which prompted the hearing this evening.

Mr. Budden presented a power point presentation on the Application for Shellfish Aquaculture Lease providing an overview of the site selection and application process. Mr. Budden provided maps, photos, and information on his business plan and farm practices. Mr. Budden also explained the potential environmental, economic, and educational impacts of the project, a small aquaculture farm.

Commissioner Pickrum invited comments and questions from the audience.

Twenty people testified; eleven in support of the Commissioners issuing a letter of support for the approval of the Shellfish Aquaculture Lease, and nine in opposition. Letters of support and one email in opposition to the lease were received in the Commissioners’ Office and provided to the Commissioners.

Thomas O’Connell, Director, Fisheries Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources provided a letter dated, January 26, 2015. Mr. O’Connell thanked Commissioner Fithian for his letter and provided information to help assure that this project will have a minimal impact on other commercial and recreation activities in the waters of the Chester River.

Written comments will be accepted in the Commissioners’ Office until Friday, January 30, 2014, at 12:00 p.m.

The hearing was taped for reference and the Commissioners adjourned the public hearing at 7:48 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Sondra M. Blackiston, Clerk

William W. Pickrum, President
The County Commissioners
Of Kent County, Maryland