Letter from DCEPA on Oyster Gardening

Dear Dymer Creek Residents:

The Dymer Creek Environmental Preservation Association is encouraging all creek residents to apply for oyster gardening permits.  The permit is free and authorizes you to use the waters near your property to grow oysters for your own use, but it does not allow you to sell these oysters commercially. Growing oysters will improve the water quality of the creek because oysters filter particles out of the water…one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! This filtering process clarifies the creek water which promotes underwater vegetation growth essential for a healthy habitat for finfish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals.

Oyster gardening can be easily done by planting baby oysters (“spat” or “seed”) on floating platforms, in bags, or in cages near your shoreline or attached to your dock.  Equipment and “starter” oysters are all locally available. If you intend to eat your oysters, it is recommended to buy sterile (triploid) spat because these oysters grow faster and are better quality. If you intend to grow oysters specifically to cleanse the creek, it is advised to use fertile (diploid) spat because you can place the adult oysters on your bank or near your pier, and they will continue to spawn and populate the area with young fertile oysters. Please be advised that some areas of our creek have been designated as “contaminated” so any oysters you intend to consume from your oyster garden should be cooked before eating.

Another benefit of being an oyster gardening permit holder is that you are registered with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), which shows that you care about the quality of the water adjacent to your property. Recording the locations of oyster gardens makes it possible for the VMRC to get a better estimate of how many oysters are in State waters and their impact on water quality. This will be important to the VMRC when they are asked to consider permits for activities on our creek.  Oyster gardening permits all around our creek may help us defeat other projects like the proposed boat ramp on Simmons Cove.

The most helpful website on oyster gardening is: www.DEQ.Virginia.gov/Programs/CoastalZoneManagement/CZMIssuesIniatives/Oysters/Gardening.aspx.  On this site, you will find the Virginia Oyster Gardening Guide, which gives a comprehensive explanation of the benefits of oyster gardening with detailed instructions about the mechanics and costs of starting your own oyster garden. You will also find the Oyster Gardening Permit (General Permit #3 or “The Abbreviated Joint Permit Application for Noncommercial Riparian Shellfish Aquaculture Structures”) which you can complete and mail to the VMRC at no cost. Questions about this application can be directed to the VMRC Engineering/Surveying Department at 757-247-2225.

If you own 205 linear feet or more of shoreline, you may qualify for a riparian oyster ground lease. Information related to applying for this type of lease may be obtained from the VMRC Engineering/Surveying Department at 757-247-2225. Once established, this lease allows you to own the oyster planting ground adjacent to your property. This planting ground becomes part of your deed and can be passed on at the sale or inheritance of your property.  The application fee is $25, and the processing and surveying fees may add up to over $700.

Please let the DCEPA know if you have submitted an application for an oyster gardening permit. This information will help us in our efforts to improve the water quality of Dymer Creek.

Wendy Smith

If you have questions, please contact
Dave Herndon            or          Wendy Smith
804-761-0409                           703-209-8068
dhherndon@aol.com              wendydsmith@aol.com

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