Baltimore District developed a Regional General Permit (RGP) for Commercial Shellfish aquaculture activities that was effective from Aug. 15, 2011, to Aug. 15, 2016. On Aug. 16, 2016, Baltimore District replaced the expiring RGP-1 by reinstating the 2012 Nationwide Permit (NWP) 48 for Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture activities. On March 20, 2017, Baltimore District announced 2017 NWP 48 would be used for Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture projects proposed within both the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays, as well as their respective tidal tributaries in Maryland. Currently, 2021 NWP 48 is approved in Maryland for these activities or an alternative form of approval may be sought as a Letter of Permission or as an Individual Permit.
NWP 48 authorizes the installation of buoys, floats, racks, trays, nets, lines, tubes, containers, and other structures into navigable waters of the United States, as well as discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States (seeding, rearing, cultivating, transplanting and harvesting activities), associated with new and continuing commercial shellfish aquaculture operations in authorized project areas. The project area is identified through a lease or permit issued by an appropriate state or local government agency, a treaty, or any easement, lease, deed, contract, or other legally binding agreement that establishes an enforceable property interest for the operator.
The process requires submission of an application in order to receive both an aquaculture lease from Maryland DNR and a permit from the Corps. The joint permit application may be submitted to either Maryland DNR, (Maryland DNR Fisheries Service, Aquaculture Division, C-2, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401), or to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District (2 Hopkins Plaza, Attn: Regulatory Branch, Baltimore, MD 21201). Both Corps authorization and a state lease are required before the proposed work and activities may be legally performed. Download The Joint State/Federal Application for a Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture lease and Federal permit (currently in the process of being revised). Application and instructions, along with additional information, can be found on Maryland DNR’s shellfish aquaculture program web site.
Nationwide permits provide a more streamlined and efficient process for obtaining Department of the Army authorizations than individual permits. In conjunction with Maryland DNR, Baltimore District receives shellfish aquaculture applications submitted to Maryland DNR, enabling both agencies to concurrently review projects. The joint application is submitted to Maryland DNR for review, where it is then forwarded to Baltimore District, prior to or near the same time as when Maryland DNR is completing their full review, including an on-site survey and updated project plans from showing any changes since the application was originally submitted.
For general permits, the Corps’ goal is to make a permit decision 60 days after receipt of a federally complete application. More complex or larger projects use Individual Permits that require a public notice and have an issuance goal of 120 days from receipt of a federally complete application.
Baltimore District participates in Aquaculture Review Board meetings, chaired by Maryland DNR and attended by other agencies, including Maryland Department of the Environment, U.S. Coast Guard, National Marine Fisheries Service and Maryland Historical Trust. The District is working in cooperation with these agencies to identify trends that affect permit processing times and making changes where we can to provide more efficient and effective decision-making for commercial shellfish aquaculture projects in Maryland.
Baltimore District developed Regional Conditions for NWP 48 to ensure proposed commercial shellfish activities have minimal impacts on navigation and endangered species, as well as any other relevant public interest factors. The application provides information for the District’s review, as well as to satisfy notification requirements in order for the application to be considered complete. If Regional Conditions requirements are not met, the application is incomplete and cannot be processed or considered further for Baltimore District review. Requirements may include a description of structural spacing; the number and spacing of cages/floats/gear as well as the number of vertical and horizontal lines, buoys and markers; and may also include notifications to adjacent property owners, as well as including information identifying how adverse impacts to navigation, or ingress and egress to neighboring properties, was considered avoided by the proposed plans and layout.