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Support HB853 -- A Bill to Ban Hydraulic Dredging in Coastal Bays
by Joe Reynolds

Your help is needed now to protect our Coastal Bays from the ongoing outrage of hydraulic clam dredging and the environmental damage it causes. Even more outrageous is the opposition to the ban by Dave Blazer, Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, a group ostensibly created to protect what it describes as "Maryland's fragile Coastal Bays."

Perhaps Blazer has not been on the water on a clear, crisp fall day when you can see the bottom through eight feet of near crystal clear water at the Route 90 Bridge, only to return hours later to find the same area a muddy concoction with zero visibility. The muddy mess can extend from above the Route 90 bridge to well below the Thorofare, a distance of several miles, depending on the tide. Blazer needs a reality check, and anyone concerned about the health of the Coastal Bays should let Blazer know it.

Strong words, but appropriate. Today Blazer supports the dredging operations, yet in 2004 his organization's web site carried this item: "Scarring from hydraulic clam dredging has been identified as a potential factor limiting submerged aquatic vegetation re-colonization in the northern coastal bays. Intense hydraulic clam dredging in this area has impacted bay grasses by digging up plants, thus fragmenting and potentially eradicating individual beds. This DNR project is an extension of the 1998-1999  Sea Grass Protection in Isle of Wight Bay study. Aerial surveys flown for that study showed heavy scarring attributed to clam dredging. These photographs documented these heavily scarred areas at the mid-point of the hydraulic clam dredging fishery."

Getting back to the muddy concoction, the source is the same hydraulic dredging process, a means for harvesting clams that uses a hydraulic, bottom gouging technique. Think of it like a farm tractor plowing the bay bottom, tearing out any nascent grasses along with the targeted clams; then throw in a six-inch stream of black muck discharging back into the bay for good measure. Outrageous does not begin to properly describe this operation. Outrageous does not begin to describe Dave Blazer's support of this environmental outrage.

Below find an overview of the current situation from Ocean Pines resident Walt Boge, email addresses and contact information for members of the Environmental Matters Committee. Contact the committee members; contact Dave Blazer; don't allow anyone to convince you hydraulic dredging is anything but an environment atrocity. They will try.

Issue: Delegate Bozman submitted a Bill to the Environmental Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates that would prohibit hydraulic dredging in the Coastal Bays. The Bill (HB853) can be found at (  for those who want to read the total bill. In synopsis the Bill's title says it all -- Atlantic Coastal Bays - Dredging for Oysters and Clams - Prohibition.

Background: In recent years watermen for Maryland and Virginia have been using hydraulic dredging technology to harvest clams and oysters from the coastal bays (Assawoman, White, Sinepuxaunt, etc.). At one point there were as many as twenty two boats working the bays. The Coastal Bays Program (CBP) have been negotiating with the clammers to limit the number of boats and the locals where dredging would occur and, apparently have signed a plan to this extent. As far as I know this plan has no status in law. Both the CBP and the MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have testified against the Bill, sighting this plan as one basis. I have yet to hear any representative from either CBP or the DNR say that hydraulic dredging say that dredging was NOT bad for the bay's environment.

Our Position: (Ocean Pines Anglers Club) Whether it is one dredging boat or 22, hydraulic dredging is harmful to the bays subsurface. Some of the many reasons for banning hydraulic dredging are:

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  • Destruction of the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV): The SAV's are one of the most important water filters to maintain and improve the bays water quality. SAV growth areas have been designated where no dredging is allowed; yet we have observed many instances where the dredgers have totally ignored the restricted areas and destroyed the SAV's. This not only destroys the grasses, but destroys the fish nurseries as well. It is not unusual to see small dead fish being discharged from these boats.
  • Excess Harvesting:  Due to the precise navigation that the dredgers now have through the use of GPS, they are able to harvest shellfish more efficiently and thoroughly thereby further depleting the stock.  Oysters and Clams are also an important water filter and we need these creatures to help clean up our waters. The dredgers are effectively depriving the bay of this very important filter. One only needs to see infrared and aerial images of the bottom scarring of our waters to see the efficiency of the shellfish harvesting.
  • Bottom Scarring:  Dr. Dr. Harry Womack of Salisbury University has made a very extensive study of the detrimental effect that hydraulic dredging has had on the health of the bay and the fishery. One of the points Dr.Womack makes is that the grooves made in the bay bottom are like that of a plowed field. These grooves in turn collect debris and this debris stays in place to rot. This rotting depletes much needed oxygen from the water and degrades the water quality.

Since the dredgers have no other state bordering on or near Maryland where hydraulic dredging is allowed, all of their attention is placed on our little piece of coastal bays. They are taking the very life out of our waters. Every study that has been made shows our waters are becoming more polluted and the fishery is being depleted. There must be some controls put in place before it is too late. Aerial photography taken after hydraulic dredging verifies the destruction caused by this operation.

Recommendation: That you solicit as many people as you can to quickly write/email letters to the members of the Environmental Matters Committee expressing their support for HB853. I say quickly because this committee will soon generate a report (positive or negative) to the House of Delegates, who will then vote on the proposed legislation. I already sent you their email addresses and can send you're their entire mailing list if you want. A letter writing campaign to the CBP might let them know how many people are against their position -- here is their address: 9919 Stephen Decatur Highway, Suite 4 ~ Ocean City, Maryland 21842
Phone: 410-213-BAYS ~ Fax: 410-213-2574,

Environmental Matters Committee (ENV)

Room 251, House Office Building, Annapolis, MD 21401-1912

(410-841-3990 Annapolis/Baltimore or 301-858-3990 Washington, D.C.)

Chairman: Maggie McIntosh

V ice Chairman: James E. Malone, Jr.

John S. Arnick

J. B. Jennings

Elizabeth Bobo

Jane E. Lawton

William A. Bronrott

Tony McConkey

Rudolph C. Cane

Karen S. Montgomery

Virginia P. Clagett

Rosetta C. Parker

John W. E. Cluster, Jr.

Catherine E. Pugh

Barbara Frush

Richard A. Sossi

Barry Glassman

Joan F. Stern

Patrick N. Hogan

Paul S. Stull

Marvin E. Holmes, Jr.

Michael H. Weir, Jr.

Committee Staff: Laura P. Lodge and T. Patrick Tracy

Dept. of Legislative Services

Telephone: 410-946-5350 or 301-970-5350

Representatives Cane and Clagett are on the original list of cosponsors of Bill 853.

Uploaded: 3/7/2006