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DNR Announces Extension of Oyster EIS Process
Anticipated completion pushed back 60-90 days
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland and Virginia Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that the data collection component of the native and nonnative oysters Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process has taken longer than expected and as a result, the EIS timeline will be delayed 60-90 days.
Now that it has been collected, the data will allow scientists to proceed with the risk assessment model component of the EIS. Maryland and Virginia have voluntarily undertaken the preparation of an EIS based on federal guidelines, to study and review several oyster restoration programs.
The delay in the data collection has subsequently led to a delay in the decision as to whether or not the research is complete. As a result, the timeline for the EIS process has been extended anywhere from 60 to 90 days.
“We have said all along that any decisions on the future management of oysters in Maryland will be based on science. Allowing for more time for a comprehensive risk assessment to be conducted without rush will undoubtedly yield greater knowledge, which will help us make a decision as to the sufficiency of the research,” said DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks.
The modeling component of the EIS will focus on the dispersal of oyster larvae in the Chesapeake Bay to determine potential distance traveled and rate of oyster larvae dispersal using coupled hydrodynamic and larval transport models, and linked to the demographic population model.
The states expect the EIS process to be completed in June or July. The research will also be reviewed and analyzed by a seven-member Independent Oyster Advisory Panel, which represents a broad range of non-partisan, scientific expertise and philosophies about marine resources.
“The time extension for the EIS will help reduce the uncertainty in the ecological risk assessment results. The additional time will also allow for more thorough review by and interaction with the federal agency Risk Assessment Advisory Group with whom we are working in conducting the risk assessment,” said Bill Richkus, vice president and general manager of Versar, Inc., who is working as cooperators with the University of Maryland in preparing the ecological risk assessment and contributing to the EIS. “Since we will be receiving the first preliminary results of many of the Asian oyster research projects being funded by DNR in January, the additional time will allow those and any subsequent results to be more fully incorporated into the models that underlay the risk assessment.”
The states are currently considering eight different alternatives to oyster restoration Four of these alternatives focus on native oysters, including a moratorium on harvesting, in addition to aquaculture, non-breeding oysters and introduction of a nonnative strain of oyster originally from China that has been in Oregon waters for over 30 years. Ongoing research projects included in considering these alternatives are:
- Resistance to pathogens (dermo, MSX) and risk to viruses
- Spawning behavior (gametogeneis, fecundity and spawning cues, species interactions)
- Competitive interactions between C. ariakensis and C. virginica
Virginia alone has been studying the C. ariakensis since 1996 and in 2004 placed approximately one million sterile oysters in Virginia’s waters and plans to plant another million nonnative oysters in 2005. The West Coast strain of the nonnative oyster being studied by Maryland and Virginia has been certified pathogen free by two internationally certified laboratories. The University of Maryland's Center for Marine Biotechnology (COMB) is conducting additional research and disease and virus scans as part of the EIS.
For complete information on Maryland’s position on oysters, visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/dnrnews/infocus/non-native_oyster.asp
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov