June 24, 2011

CARDIN, MIKULSKI URGE NOAA TO COMPLETE APPROVAL OF OYSTER AQUACULTURE PERMITS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY

Senators say NOAA’s slow review process is unacceptable

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) announced today they have requested that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) speed and complete approval of aquaculture permits in Maryland “without further delays.”

In a letter to Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Jane Lubchenco, they expressed their “frustration over the extended amount of time it has taken NOAA to approve Maryland’s oyster aquaculture permits in the Chesapeake Bay.”

NOAA provides environmental assessments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the approval of permits in Maryland. NOAA began reviewing the permits more than a year ago.

“Due to NOAA’s lack of momentum, new fishery jobs are in jeopardy and economic opportunities for Maryland’s coastal communities have stalled,” Maryland’s Senators said in the letter.

The full text is as follows:

June 22, 2010

The Honorable Jane Lubchenco

Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere

Administrator

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Washington, DC 20230 

Dear Dr. Lubchenco:

We write to express our frustration over the extended amount of time it has taken your agency to approve Maryland’s oyster aquaculture permits in the Chesapeake Bay.   We realize that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency working with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources on these permits, and we have informed the Corp’s Baltimore District of this issue.  However, NOAA is responsible for providing environmental reviews to the Corps’s permits, which it has yet to complete.  NOAA’s slow review process has stalled the general permitting process, and that is unacceptable.

As leaders in the Senate who have fought to restore the Bay and support the communities that depend on the Bay, we have been following federal efforts to approve Maryland’s aquaculture permits.  We understand that the Corps consults with NOAA on environmental assessment work, particularly on regulations pertaining to the Endangered Species Act.  NOAA’s role in this process is necessary, and one that we fully support.  The amount of time it has taken your agency to conclude its findings for Maryland’s permits, however, has been unreasonable.  This work began well over a year ago, with promises that issues were being worked out time and again.  Time is up.

Due to NOAA’s lack of momentum, new fishery jobs are in jeopardy and economic opportunities for Maryland’s coastal communities have stalled. Therefore, we urgently request that NOAA wrap-up its remaining portion of the permit reviews immediately and provide its final feedback to the Corps without further delays. 

Thank you for your consideration to this urgent request, and we look forward to hearing from you in the near future that this work has been completed.

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Mikulski                                                                Benjamin L. Cardin

United States Senator                                                                         United States Senator