WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today lauded the inclusion in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of provisions he authored to aid the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its oyster populations, which are near historic lows. Specifically, Senator Cardin introduced a measure to increase funding for the restoration of wild oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay from $60 million to $100 million, which would allow the ongoing efforts to restore historic oyster reefs to accelerate and expand dramatically. Senator Cardin also introduced a measure that would initiate an in-depth study of the disparate laws, guidance and practices used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nationwide to regulate the permitting of oyster aquaculture sites and the hatchery operations that make them possible.
“We know that when we’re talking about the ecological recovery of the Chesapeake Bay, more oysters in the water makes for a better Bay. It is imperative that we significantly increase the funding that is so important to forging the public-private partnerships that fuel the ongoing effort to restore the Chesapeake’s wild oyster populations,” said Senator Cardin. “We also know that oyster aquaculture can play a major role in helping the Chesapeake Bay recover, and it helps build successful small businesses that provide new jobs in rural areas that badly need them. Unfortunately, we have heard repeatedly from Maryland oyster farmers that the federal permits that regulate their operations often take years to be granted by the Army Corps Baltimore District, while the process usually only takes months in neighboring waters of Virginia and other parts of the country. That is why it is critical that we have the General Accounting Office (GAO) initiate an in-depth, nationwide study of the laws, regulations and practices that guide the Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to the oyster aquaculture and hatchery permitting, to bring more efficiency and certainty to this growing but vitally important small business sector in Maryland.”