Army Corps of Engineers implements federal process improvements for oyster aquaculture in Chesapeake Bay

Published Aug. 16, 2016
BALTIMORE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District (Corps) has decided to reinstate, effective today, August 16, 2016, the suspended 2012 Nationwide Permit #48 (NWP #48) with revised regional conditions for new and existing commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Maryland tidal waters, pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

On August 15, 2011, the Corps issued a Regional General Permit (RGP-1) for new commercial, research, and educational bivalve shellfish aquaculture activities in Maryland tidal waters.  The RGP-1 provided for a more streamlined form of Department of the Army (DA) authorization for new native oyster aquaculture activities that were being proposed as a result of changes in State aquaculture leasing laws.  The RGP-1 expired on August 15, 2016 and the NWP #48 replaces it. 

The 2012 NWP #48 authorized proposed and existing commercial shellfish aquaculture activities, including structures, such as the installation of buoys, floats, racks, trays, nets, lines, tubes, containers, and discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States necessary for shellfish seeding, rearing, cultivating, transplanting, and harvesting activities with no size limit thresholds.

This decision to reinstate the 2012 NWP #48 will allow the Corps to consider applications for new and existing commercial shellfish aquaculture activities within the State of Maryland that meet the revised regional conditions, all terms and eligibility criteria, limitations, and conditions specified in the NWP #48.

Changes include:

• Allowing unlimited project acreage for qualifying aquaculture activities under Nationwide Permit #48.
• Instituting a concurrent review process with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), rather than Baltimore District receiving joint applications only after initial state reviews are complete.
• Requiring additional information in applications to enable the District to ensure that the activities authorized have minimal individual and cumulative adverse impacts on the aquatic environment and the public interest, including identifying how adverse effects to navigation and/or ingress/egress from neighboring properties have been avoided.
• Removing certain existing geographic exclusion lines and instead evaluating projects upstream of those lines on a case-by-case basis to address fish spawning habitat concerns.

The reinstated NWP #48 will be effective from August 16, 2016 until the expiration of the 2012 NWPs on March 18, 2017.

Sarah Gross

Release no. UNRELEASED