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“My con­cern is that the Oys­ter Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion and the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources is mov­ing for­ward, is con­cerned with the health of the Bay, but also the sus­tain­abil­ity of the oys­ter in­dus­try and the sanc­tu­ar­ies,” Adams said, “and here comes the leg­is­la­ture af­ter this has been a very pro­duc­tive process and say­ing, ‘Well, no, the five year study is not enough.”

Adams and Mautz tried to add amend­ments to the bill on Wed­nes­day, be­fore its pas­sage in the House on Thurs­day. Both amend­ments were voted down.

Adams’ amend­ment would have in­creased the amount of bushels of oys­ter shell given for seed­ing and shelling of pub­lic fish­ery bot­tom from 200,000 to 250,000, which would bol­ster the work done by wa­ter­men in the off sea­son.

The amend­ment Mautz of­fered would have au­tho­rized DNR to cre­ate an al­ter­na­tive man­age­ment plan, sim­i­lar to Vir­ginia’s model, which was found to be a suc­cess­ful man­age­ment strat­egy, he said.

It would have al­lowed a limited and pe­ri­odic har­vest of oys­ters from beds in sanc­tu­ar­ies, in an ef­fort to work the bot­tom, which wa­ter­men say pulls oys­ters up from be­ing buried too far on the bot­tom and re­duces the amount of silt that cov­ers oys­ters.

“This amend­ment is in­tended to help re­store oys­ter bars in sanc­tu­ar­ies at a low cost to the state,” Matuz said. “It’s mod­eled on Vir­ginia’s oys­ter man­age­ment plan, which has proven to be suc­cess­ful.”

The amend­ment spec­i­fied oys­ters would be al­lowed to be har­vested only in limited num­bers and for a limited num­ber of days, a week or two, once ev­ery three or four years. Mautz stressed that the amend­ment would func­tion on a limited ba­sis, sym­pa­thetic to the con­cept of not touch­ing ar­eas once they are put into oys­ter sanc­tu­ary.

How­ever, in de­bates on the House floor Wed­nes­day, Gilchrist called the amend­ment out­side the scope of the bill. But he said it could make for a piece of leg­is­la­tion in the Gen­eral Assem­bly next year, as it is past the dead­line for sub­mit­ting new leg­is­la­tion.

Mautz said the five-year study re­leased last year showed some of the sanc­tu­ar­ies haven’t been do­ing as well as some would hope. He said about half the sanc­tu­ar­ies that haven’t seen in­vest­ment un­der the state’s oys­ter sanc­tu­ary restora­tion goals are show­ing a di­min­ish­ing abun­dance of oys­ters.

“While we wait two more years, it seems to be log­i­cal that we would give the depart­ment the author­ity or the di­rec­tion to take the lead on try­ing to find ways to im­prove these sanc­tu­ar­ies, be­cause if we wait two more years, they’re go­ing to con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate from silt­ing and other sorts of things,” Mautz said.

“It’s a huge prob­lem. The longer we wait, the more it’s go­ing to cost us in the long run,” he said.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ jbol­l_s­tar­dem.

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