On Wednesday, October 9, Delegate Matt Morgan and I spoke with representatives of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources regarding oyster leases that are currently being applied for in the Patuxent River off of the shoreline of the Golden Beach/Patuxent Knolls community. In this conversation, I relayed the concerns that I have heard from members of this community about these leases. The Department has informed us that they will hold a public informational meeting at the Northern Senior Center in St. Mary’s County. The time and date of this meeting are still to be determined.
The concerns that have been raised by members of the Golden Beach/Patuxent Knolls community are similar to what I have heard from residents across St. Mary’s County about these oyster leases. This is an issue that disproportionately impacts St. Mary’s County, which has nearly 50% of Maryland’s water column leases. This is why I have been working on legislation to allow property owners who own land on Maryland waterways to have the right to apply for and, if approved, obtain a water column lease for the area of the river that is in front of their property before it could be obtained by anyone else. In the 2019 Legislative Session, I sponsored Senate Bill 876: Aquaculture – Leases in Water Column – Riparian Right of First Refusal, which would have given property owners this right of first refusal so that they could have more control over the water column leases being obtained in front of their property. Though we were able to bring together a broad coalition of property owners, watermen, business owners, and many others throughout our community to support this legislation, the bill did not pass the General Assembly.
I will continue to keep you informed on this issue and to work to address these concerns about the manner in which oyster leases are obtained in St. Mary’s County and throughout Maryland.
More information regarding Senate Bill 876 is available from the Maryland General Assembly’s website: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/legislation/details/sb0876?ys=2019rs