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VMRC denies request to modify boundaries for oyster growing operation on Great Wicomico River

FT. MONROE—In a 6-0-1 vote, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) on Tuesday, June 27, denied a request by Myles Cockrell and Little Wicomico Oyster Company (LWOC) for after-the-fact authorization to modify the boundaries of a floating oyster growing operation on the Great Wicomico River.

Lynn Kellum, Will Bransom, Spencer Headley, J.J. Minor, Wayne France and Ed Tankard voted to deny the request. A.J. Erskine said he was “a strong supporter of shellfish aquaculture,” but abstained because one of his employers, Cowart Seafood, has consulted with Cockrell on the original application.

In April 2022, VMRC approved two sites for LWOC on the Great Wicomico River near Blackwells Creek and Camp Kittamaqund for an oyster growing operation consisting of floating bags. The dispute on those permitted boundaries began in September 2022 when VMRC issued a notice to comply after receiving complaints from area residents claiming bags were placed outside the permitted area according to chief of shellfish management Adam Kenyon.

In the notice, VMRC stated incorrect latitude and longitude coordinates were supplied with the permit drawing and that approximately half of the oyster floats were outside the permitted area. They ordered any floats outside of the currently authorized area to be removed.

In a letter to VMRC through attorney A. Davis “Dave” Bugg, Jr., LWOC objected noting that the application included drawings “that clearly established the two sites requested for floating gear,” that LWOC did not knowingly submit incorrect GPS coordinates that were supplied by an agent, and that VMRC did not verify the coordinates prior to permitting. The commission upheld the notice to comply and the removal of the bags at an October 25 hearing. An appeal of that decision is in Northumberland County Circuit Court. A hearing date has not been set and the bags remain in place. According to Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block, “typically when we get an appeal in court, we tend to not force compliance because if we do and then the notice to comply is found to have been illegal, then…..

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