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MD, VA Announce Updated Schedule for Oyster EIS Process
EIS components will become public when available
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland and Virginia natural resources managers today announced an updated schedule for delivery of a draft oyster Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will include an assessment of the risks and benefits of native and nonnative oyster restoration alternatives for the Chesapeake Bay. With the inclusion of additional data critical to the modeling component of the EIS process, a draft is expected to be available in January 2006.
As chapters of the draft EIS document become finalized they will be made available to the public, starting in July with a cultural assessment on the significant cultural importance of oysters to the Chesapeake Bay.
“It is important for the public to understand we are taking the time to ensure the EIS is as comprehensive as possible, and that all available data has been considered before a decision is made on how and if to proceed with one of the eight alternatives under review,” said Mike Slattery, Assistant Secretary for Forests, Parks, Fisheries and Wildlife for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “This schedule adjustment illustrates the States’ flexibility with the EIS schedule, and commitment to take the necessary time to adequately evaluate and understand the risks with this important component of Bay restoration.”
Working together, and with federal partners and stakeholders, significant milestones have been met since the initiation of the EIS. To date:
- The scope of the EIS has been defined;
- A research framework was developed and implemented;
- The modeling and risk criteria frameworks have been developed; and
- An Independent Oyster Advisory Panel has been established.
The next step in the EIS is to begin running the demographic oyster model to assess the population growth projections for both the native and nonnative oyster restoration alternatives.
”The assemblage and analysis of Virginia’s 20 years worth of data has taken longer than expected, but will add significant value and provide the best available information to facilitate decision making,” said Jack Travelstead, Chief of Fisheries Management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
“Significant progress has been made since the initiation of this project, and while research continues, there is sufficient data to initiate the demographic oyster modeling component of the EIS,” said Tom O’Connell, Estuarine and Marine Fisheries Restoration Manager for the Maryland DNR. “If the results of the demographic model indicate that additional data are necessary to facilitate decision-making, updated data from ongoing research will be incorporated.”
The change in schedule to the EIS will also allow for the inclusion of recently funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) nonnative oyster research that is not due to be completed until the fall. Under the original timeline, the results of this research program would not have been available in time to be considered in the EIS.
The states of Maryland and Virginia in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers have voluntarily undertaken the preparation of an EIS based on federal guidelines, to study and review eight alternatives for restoring oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. 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.
Additionally, the Independent Advisory Panel will meet June 28 and 29 in Providence, RI.
For complete information on Maryland’s position on oysters, visit www.dnr.maryland.gov.
June 28, 2005
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 18,000 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