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  • Writer's pictureChris

Rules, Regulations & Goodwill

Updated: Mar 2

In addition to following Virginia rules & regulations, LOC strives to be a good neighbor & responsible steward of public land.

LOC gear is only visible at the lowest of tides of the year for a 2-3 hour period. This is important to the Lynnhaven River view shed that 100s of waterfront homeowners share along the LOC lease.

Oyster farming and harvesting can be practiced many ways. LOC operates under a general use permit that allows aquaculture equipment within a 12-inch zone from the bottom. Only visible at certain times (see above), LOC gear is marked by signage required by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC). Similar to how buoys mark crab pots, these signs helps boaters outside of designated channels navigate carefully around these sub-surface structures.

LOC’s farm is in a unique location. The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic provide high salinity water. It is convenient for the LOC farm and most members are all within just a few miles of its bounty. Yet, the surrounding built environment is a two headed monster: 1) there are environmental consequences and 2) we have lots of neighbors to get along with. While most people can cite oyster-benefits and admit to no personal problems with oysters or the practice of growing them, “not in my backyard” tends to be the sentiment in response to nearby aquaculture operations.

LOC understands and we are extremely fortunate to operate where we do. As such, we run a “tight ship” and are always looking for opportunities to garner goodwill.

Thus, a grower like LOC who contemplates the use of certain gear such as dredges, or floating aquaculture equipment, will need to apply for the correct licenses and special use permits. And when one applies for a permit in a location like the Lynnhaven, the law demands that adjoining property owners are notified of the applicant’s intent. As you can imagine, without a good neighborly dialog, the worst is often assumed and resistance to the application is the first reaction. Adjoining property owners are allowed to comment and if dissatisfied with the permit, they can contest the application. Public hearings can be contentious and can cause time consuming delays in an already cumbersome approval process.

Immediate opposition is often fueled by the unknown. A "commercial operation" sounds ominous but very well could be a just few people wading around during low tide wearing hats. It also does not help that most waterfront homeowners are unaware of the historical precedent of public land leasing and that the property that makes up their view is actually public land. There are also unfortunate examples of “bad actors” that have conditioned the public to react this way.

The LOC farm is on land leased from the State of Virginia and touches many waterfront properties along the Great Neck corridor. Leases are managed by the VMRC who, in addition to managing fish and game licensing, is also charged with law and regulation enforcement via the Marine Police.

Some oyster growers choose to operate floating farms because these do not require workers to get in the water. Believe us when we say, this is a huge benefit, especially during the winter! Moreover, floating farms open up more water to production as deeper water makes on bottom farming logistically challenging. In addition, a floating farm places the oysters where their food is more plentiful so the oysters grow faster allowing farms to turn profits faster as well. Lastly, variable surface conditions of the water improves product quality by naturally tumbling the oysters as the floats bounce up and down with wind-driven waves. Tumbling is an arduous activity that most farmers do by hand or with additional machine aids. Having oysters tumbled periodically by nature while inside their protective enclosures is a huge time saver and product quality boost.

This growing method, while possible for LOC to do via special use permits, would likely result in a difficult approval process. As one can imagine, a floating oyster farm on the Lynnhaven could easily generate public opposition. You can see the difference between on-bottom gear and a floating gear here.

Note: A year following this original post, a Broad Bay application (info on "the Hull Truth" forum) for a large floating farm was denied by VMRC. As explained in this article, by law the public was notified and allowed to comment. All sides were heard and the VMRC chose to not issue the special-use permit. While this process worked as intended to give citizens a voice, local politicians are being influenced to propose legislation to unilaterally ban all oyster aquaculture, on-bottom included, in the Lynnhaven River. You can read the latest about this topic here.

As explained in a two-part article here, floating farms can provide a unique benefit to waterfront homeowners: shoreline erosion mitigation via wave attenuation. Yet, because most homes have hardened shorelines already, this benefit is often lost in the more passionate rhetoric about floating farms in developed areas.

In being a good neighbor, we hope the Club is seen this way and is considered a force for good in our community. We consider this responsibility critically important as we carefully chart our way ahead.

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