CONTACT: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Statewide Activity Approval permit
from DNREC proposed to facilitate
shellfish aquaculture in Delaware
DOVER (March 23, 2016) – DNREC is proceeding with a Statewide Activity Approval permitting process that would enable the start-up of limited commercial shellfish aquaculture in Delaware’s Inland Bays by authorizing the permitting of activities in specifically-designated areas intended to help improve water quality and provide new business opportunities.
DNREC Secretary David Small said the Statewide Activity Approval (SAA) is the final step that DNREC needs to complete before it can begin accepting applications from aquaculturalists seeking to lease lands for their operations. “The SAA process is designed to help bring more certainty to applicants and the public through the use of maps that identify areas that are appropriate for aquaculture operations,” Sec. Small said. “The Inland Bays are some of the most intensively used waterways in the region and the areas that have been selected represent locations intended to support shellfish aquaculture compatible with boaters and property owners.”
He noted that the Statewide Activity Approval also enabled DNREC to address the concerns of residents that came to light after the state’s shellfish aquaculture regulations had been adopted. “Likewise, we believe that enough shellfish aquaculture areas will be authorized through the SAA process to give the industry a chance to establish itself,” Sec. Small said.
The number of areas now being proposed for SAAs has been reduced from the areas originally adopted as part of the regulations that provide for program oversight. Specifically, areas in Beach Cove will not be subject to the SAA process and the number of sites in Little Assawoman Bay has been reduced. “We feel this approach gives consideration to property owners who had concerns about aquaculture in their area and also considered permitting for aquaculturists – who now have a more efficient and expedient approach through the SAA for establishing their operations.”
DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Saveikis, whose division has regulatory purview for shellfish aquaculture, recently wrote in the SAA application that “The Fisheries Section is hereby requesting that the Division of Water, Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section establish a Statewide Activity Approval (SAA) to facilitate the issuance of permits for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities on public subaqueous lands in Delaware's Inland Bays to be leased pursuant to 7 DE Admin Code 3800 Shellfish Aquaculture” – the regulation that calls for implementing a commercial aquaculture program in Delaware. DNREC’s Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section is charged with oversight for any Department decision that involves use of subaqueous lands.
The impetus for Delaware’s aquaculture initiative originated with the Center for the Inland Bays, which assembled a team of interested parties that developed a program framework and recommendations that led to enabling legislation. As oysters also filter high volumes of water, they also are catalysts for improving water quality, as they eat hundreds of microscopic species that live in water, while also consuming nitrogen pollution, algae, dirt and other detrimental elements to better water quality.
DNREC also has applied for an expedited federal permit process from the US Army Corps of Engineers, which is needed before it can begin accepting applications for leases in designated shellfish aquaculture areas. Maps of the shellfish aquaculture areas as delineated by the Statewide Activity Approval permit can be found on the DNREC website on the SAA Shellfish Aquaculture Package at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/Pages/ShellfishAquaculture.aspx.
Vol. 46, No. 91