Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yet another red tape horror story: Feds halt oyster farming

Maryland environmental officials are attempting to encourage oyster farming in Chesapeake Bay, but oyster farmers are being held back by formidable bureaucratic red tape from Washington, DC.

Oysters are highly efficient at improving water quality by filtering out algae, excessive nutrients, and pollutants. With Chesapeake Bay oyster populations down roughly 90 percent from historical norms, state officials say they would like to encourage oyster farming, and oyster farmers say they would like to cultivate oysters. The problem, aquaculturists report, is obtaining permits through the redundant federal and state environmental review boards.

Karen Oertel, whose family has farmed oysters since 1947, described the frustration she has personally experienced with government regulation.

“This is not new,” Oertel said, speaking of the state’s 200-year-old oyster farming industry. “But nobody can get the permits. It’s a nightmare for anyone trying to obtain permits. It’s the feds. It’s the Army Corp of Engineers.”

Oertel said the state has been trying to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to open the doors to more permitting and more oyster farming. But it’s been a 20-year battle with few signs of improvement.

“I don’t know why. It’s beyond comprehension,” she said.

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