Permit Applications

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has submitted an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to dredge oyster shells from the upper Bay.

Comments regarding this permit application may be received via email, mail, or by attending a public hearing. To submit written comments, please mail or email them to:

Ms. Abbie Hopkins
Baltimore District, Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1715
Baltimore, MD 21203-1715
Phone: 410-962-6080

Questions or comments pertaining to the State's Tidal Wetlands License should be directed to:
Mr. Justin Bereznak
Tidal Wetlands Division Wetlands and Waterways Program
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd., Ste. 430
Baltimore, MD 21230-1708
Phone: 410-537-3782

Due to the pending snow storm, the Man-O-War Shoal Shell Dredging public hearings will be postponed. The NEW meetings times are listed below.

Public hearings will allow for verbal comments to be recorded and transcribed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
6:00 pm to 7:00 pm Poster Session
7:00 pm Public Hearing
Sparrows Point High School Auditorium
7400 North Point Road
Edgemere, Maryland 21219

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
6:00 pm to 7:00 pm Poster Session
7:00 pm Public Hearing
Governor Hall at Sailwinds Park
200 Byrne Street
Cambridge, Maryland 21613

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 DNR to apply for a new shell dredging permit by July 1, 2009. DNR worked with the MD 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 DNR submitted an application to dredge ManO'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 DNR'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, DNR 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 (USACE) 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 USACE 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 USACE requested an alternate materials analysis. Hence, the permit application was put on hold.

DNR followed the advice from the USACE 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. DNR 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, DNR 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, DNR determined that the purpose and need for Man O'War shell could be clearly documented and proceeded to update the permit application.

Below is the permit application if you would like to review the document.

DNR has now updated and resubmitted the Man O'War Shoals dredging permit. To ensure your opportunity for input, please note that their will be an open public comment period established by the USACE and MDE as the permit application is processed. Your comments will be used to help guide the review of the permit application and the final decision about the permit. We look forward to working with you and hearing your comments. We will keep you informed of the USACE's and MDE's comment period when it is set.