The Department of Natural Resources has submitted an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment to dredge oyster shells from the upper Bay.
In the interest of increasing transparency and ensuring opportunity for constituent input, we provide you with the following background information regarding the project.
The proposed dredging location is Man O'War Shoals oyster bar, located north of the Bay Bridge in Baltimore County off the mouth of Patapsco River. The purpose is to obtain large amounts of shell which will be used in a variety of oyster restoration and enhancement projects.
Oyster shells are a vital component to restore and replenish oyster bars in both sanctuaries and harvest areas. Oyster larvae require shells on which to attach and become new oysters, called spat. Lacking shell bottom, oyster populations decline and efforts to restore oysters falter.
Historically, oyster restoration and replenishment activities used shells from oyster shucking houses and from the dredging of buried beds of oyster shells in the Bay bottom. Shucked shells (fresh shells) were always important but not abundant enough to supply the quantities needed, therefore the dredge shell program was initiated in 1960 to greatly increase the supply of shells. In 2006, the program ended when the existing permit expired. Then in 2009, the Maryland legislature passed HB103 which required the department to apply for a new shell dredging permit by July 1, 2009. The department worked with the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission to identify an area to dredge for oyster shells in the Bay and to develop a dredging operational procedure. On July 1, 2009, the department submitted an application to dredge Man O' War Shoals in the upper Bay.
This site was selected because it has the most significant deposit of buried shell (86 to 103 million bushels, Maryland Geological Survey, personal communications) among the other sites considered and does not occur within a striped bass spawning reach as do other shell deposits. The permit application expressed the department's intent to ultimately remove approximately 30% of the available shell (about 30 million bushels) for oyster projects. In response to stakeholders' concerns about the potential ecological effects of a shell dredging project of this magnitude, the department requested an initial 5-year permit to dredge about 5 million bushels of shell as part of a comprehensive monitoring project to assess the ecological consequences of removing shell from the shoal.
Upon initial review of the permit application, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded that there wasn't sufficient information to justify the purpose and need for this project. And, as such, the permit application would likely be rejected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressed concern that viable options may exist for oyster substrate that should be explored before undertaking a project that may permanently impact Man O' War Shoals. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested an alternate materials analysis. Hence, the permit application was put on hold.
The Department of Natural Resources followed the advice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and explored alternative shell and non-shell materials over the course of a few years. Fossil shell from Florida was used in restoring oyster bars along with clam shell and granite. The department also worked with the County Oyster Committees to identify areas where previously planted oyster shell could be recovered under current permits and placed on public fishery bottom. As a result of these efforts, in 2012, the department and the industry were successful in reclaiming approximately 413,000 bushels of previously planted oyster shells which were planted on active public oyster bars. At the completion ofthe 2012 reclamation project, it became clear that options for accessing cost-effective substrate for industry bottom were exhausted. Therefore, the department determined that the purpose and need for Man O' War shell could be clearly documented and proceeded to update the permit application.
Below are the permit application and other important documents organized from oldest to most recent.
Note, the detailed Attachment 1 for the application was revised in 2017 and the new version is named "REVISED 2/13/17 Attachment 1"
However the map in Attachment 1 was revised in 2018. The updated map isn't shown in the 2017 Attachment 1, but is shown in the file below named Man O' War Revised Final Plan. This map is the current map for the project.