In addition to following Virginia rules & regulations, LOC strives to be a good neighbor & steward.
LOC gear is only visible at the lowest of tides which occur 1-2 in certain months 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 not to exceed 12” off 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 gear to improve harvest productivity, 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. Neighbors are allowed to contest the application and this causes time consuming delays in an already cumbersome approval process.
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 constitues 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 enforcement via the Marine Police.
Some oyster growers choose to operate floating farms because these do not require farmers to get in the water (believe us – this is a huge benefit during the winter!). Moreover, floating farms eliminate the need for low-tide access and the surface conditions of the water improves product quality by providing food and natural tumbling. This growing method, while possible for LOC 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.
Note: About a year following this origional post, a Broad Bay application for a large floating farm was submitted to VMRC. By law, the public was notified and citizen comment influenced VMRC to deny the permit. While the process appeared to work for all involved, local politicians are proposing legislation to ban all oyster aquaculture, on-bottom included, in the Lynnhaven River.
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.