Clam Dredging: A Rebuttal to ShoreRivers by Marc Castelli


I am responding to the op-ed on clam dredging by Mr. Horstman. A reply is necessary because there were many missing and mishandled facts, to the point that it was beyond opinion and became erroneously misleading, which is a concern.

Beginning with some broad concepts, it is easy to take pot shots at an industry that few have ever taken the time to study and physically witness. Criticism outside the realm of actual knowledge becomes noise. But the public often responds quite well to noise, marching to it and cheering. So, while you have the freedom of speech to say what you want, there is a responsibility when speaking as an executive director to have facts for the public you are addressing. The reader likely looks to you, in your position, as an authority on the subject, but in fact, you are not sharing the whole story about clamming.

This is common in op-ed pieces: people set themselves up as an expert, but they aren’t. More often than not you end up misleading your membership with hysterical hyperbole. Why are simple facts about how the clam fishery interacts with the environment and natural resources so hard to find in the media? Is it because you, one of the Bay’s environmental “guardians” offer misinformed comments that will try to sway public opinion against clamming? Many of that industry’s best speakers are busy trying to make a living on the water and keep up with the pace of changes forced on it by outside pressures. Simply put they just do not have the time to respond to misleading op-ed pieces. I do.

I’m concerned that Mr. Horstman has never spent the day on a clam dredge asking questions of the very people he apparently wants to do away with. There is much to learn about clamming yet he hasn’t done the needed homework. Confirmation bias is not a healthy lifestyle. I will address the many issues in his latest op-ed on clamming. The quotes will be in their entirety. The italics are my words.

Photo by Marc Castelli

Hydraulic dredging for clams in our rivers is on the rise. This is accurate but carries the tone in his op-ed of a “problem,” as if clamming has increased upon a depressed population. Yet, dredging is on the rise because clam populations have risen significantly. A healthy harvest is supported by a healthy population. Many of us have witnessed the damage this practice causes. What damage? There are no specific details, only opinion. Who witnessed it? Where? This is noise. I hear the cheers and footsteps.

Clamming licenses in Maryland sharply increased over the past few years from just 8 in 2013 to over 30 in 2016, perhaps signifying a modest comeback of the softshell clam and reflecting the increasing popularity of clams as crabbing bait. There are numerous problems with Mr. Horstman’s “expertise” here. It is true that licenses have increased and this is due to an increase in clams. But he mentions a modest comeback. In fact, it is significant. He mentions soft shell clams, but in fact, razor clams have also increased. He links the increase in licenses to soft shell clams, but it is also due to razor clams. He mentions an increasing popularity of razor clams as crab bait, but in fact, they have been popular as crab bait for years.

Similar to oysters, clams are a vital filter feeder and a key component in the ecological food chain. While it is true that soft clams are filter feeders it is not correct about razor clams which are deposit feeders. Unlike oysters that live many years, even over 10, clams are short-lived and are difficult to “save” over time.

Historically the clam population has been decimated by overharvesting and disease. Not quite correct as the softshell clam industry was booming for many years since the 1950’s. Harvest was vigorous and the population didn’t decline from that. The steep decline in the late 1900’s to early 2000’s was due to the widespread and virulent disease, clam neoplasia, not overharvesting. High water temperatures have also depressed the softshell clam populations and caused die-offs at times, as the clam in Maryland is at the southern limit of its range.

Without a DNR management plan, the clam population is now at risk of another serious population downturn. Mr. Horstman offers no meaningful information for this claim, no evidence on the linkage between the clam stocks and the lack of a clam management plan, and no data about the imminent loss of clams. He states the population is NOW at risk. Data, please? In fact, the populations naturally vary, decreasing and increasing over time. Harvest numbers will reflect that. But to link a natural decrease to a lack of a clam management plan is nothing more than biased overreaching to sway the public. A discussion of the current clam management plan can be found further on in this piece. Downturns are related to many natural conditions already mentioned, including predation that can wipe clean many clam areas.

Clams are not like oysters – they do not live long. The soft shell clam reproduces twice a year.

Today’s clam population mirror those of oysters, resting at about 1% of historic levels. This is just hype. No one knows for certain what the clam population was or is. The oft-repeated 1% claim for oysters is not a set-in-stone statistic either. It is based on many unsupported assumptions. Linking clams with the oyster plight is a ploy. The marching continues.

The practice of harvesting clams with a hydraulic dredge is akin to underwater strip mining. While it is an aggressive form of harvesting it is not strip mining. Mr. Horstman’s linking the two just serves to heighten the hysteria he is trying to create.

He goes on further to claim that, high-velocity jets of water strip away the river bottom. No, they don’t. To strip away means that the river bottom no longer exists. High-velocity jets of water will actually crush the shells of clams. What right minded clammer would be so destructive? Clam rigs fluidize the bottom dislodging clams which will float and then be carried onto the conveyor belt. Much of the larger grain sediment (sand, grit, pebbles, for example) that is stirred up actually falls through the chain of the belt back to the bottom within seconds. Clamming is not a high-speed process. The boat and dredge move very slowly ahead. Pump and boat engines usually run a little more than idle. Too much power to either will destroy the rig’s pump and crush the clams. If Mr. Horstman knew better he could say that as the boat moves, large amounts of sediment dislodged by the dredge can actually settle back onto the river bottom, leaving a shallow depression. But then I doubt that he has ever actually been on a clam dredge. I have and have spent many an hour nursing a backache from picking clams from the conveyor. It is long, repetitive back-breaking work with few if any breaks. Reading, asking questions of everyone concerned and hands-on experience with first-hand observations is how I have learned the little I do know about clams.

He goes on to claim that a clam dredge will leave a trench that can be two feet deep and three feet wide. It is obvious he did not talk with a clammer. First off, he describes the path of a clam dredge that will dig down two feet and be three feet wide as a trench. He leaves the reader with the notion that a dredge digs a trench and does not replace sediment along the dredge’s path. But as stated above, sediment partially refills the affected area. Most clam bottom is not suitable for dredges that are three feet wide, some dredge heads are 18 inches in width. While there are 36-inch dredges, such pieces of equipment are suitable for sandy bottom only. Not all clam bottom is sandy.

He claims, the action of the dredge causes major damage to the river floor. That is an exaggeration and is not accurate. The bottom does not sustain major damage. Instead, it is emulsified, but then the sediment quickly resettles. Benthic organisms then recolonize the bottom. The river floor is not “gone” or “dead” after clamming. Clams can even come back and in some instances are thicker. Who would know this? A clammer would be able to see this. The first-hand empirical knowledge of a waterman is vast.

He asserts that dredging causes irreversible damage to submerged aquatic vegetation(SAV). Yes, grasses will be uprooted, but this is why clamming is prohibited in SAV beds. Safeguards are in place. Additionally, clam rigs don’t work well in grass beds. The grass not only clogs the belt but the intake as well and takes too much time to clear away the grasses in order to pick the clams from the belt. Officials in his position should not use op-ed opportunities to misinform the public. Executive directors should value opportunities to factually inform the public, not raise the temperature on these issues. Facts are stubborn creatures. They do not go away.

He does state factually, that sediment plumes are visible from clammers. Yes, there are sediment plumes. Depending on the type of bottom, the plumes will not stay suspended for any great length of time. But, has he ever spent the time to watch just how long such a plume remains suspended in the water column?

Mr. Horstman states that according to multiple studies, hydraulic dredging is catastrophic to SAV beds and that the sediment plumes kill oyster spat in surrounding areas. SAV beds are seriously impacted IF a dredge goes in them, but designated SAV beds are legally off limits to clamming and as stated above clammers avoid clogging their rigs with grass. Additionally, note that SAV has increased over the past few years during which clamming has also increased, significantly. The two can co-exist. In fact, long-term trends in SAV (available online) show no linkage with clam harvest levels. As for oyster spat mortality, there is no definition of “surrounding areas”, leading the reader to think that spat in a large area is killed by clamming. In fact, a study was done to determine limits on clamming found that impacts on oysters occurred up to 75 feet away from the dredge. Maryland decided to create 150 ft. setbacks from oyster beds. That is actually twice the distance noted in the study. But, in reality, there is even a greater safeguard. The boundary line of an oyster bar is from where the 150 ft. is measured. The actual oyster bar population is within the boundary of the bar such that the oyster population is likely hundreds of feet more away. If a clammer is found to have an oyster on his boat, he is ticketed and faces a huge fine. Very crafty writing Mr. Horstman: sparse on facts, but a lot of noise.

He further claims that while there are regulations aimed at prohibiting hydraulic dredging in SAV beds, some dredging is allowed in and near oyster sanctuaries. He obviously chooses to be ignorant and to keep his readers ignorant of the setback distances and regulations mentioned above that protect oysters and oyster bars, including those in sanctuaries. Why?

He goes on to say, additionally, it is getting more and more difficult to determine where SAV beds are located as they continually change and many large SAV beds are not mapped at all, leaving them vulnerable to this destructive practice. Hidden in his message is actually the need to better manage SAV beds. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe his association could let go of some of the many thousands of dollars they have and fund a state survey of SAV beds. What he barely conceals is that he wants clamming prohibited.

Horstman states that hydraulic harvesting is currently allowed year-round and the practice is increasing without any assessment of the growing environmental damage it’s causing. Day after day these hydraulic machines scour, scrape and gouge the river bottoms, producing thousands of pounds of sediment pollution. What a picture he has painted with these adjectives. He is sadly mistaken in portraying the clam industry as being in operation day after day. It is only for 6 days a week (Mon.-Sat.), weather and market permitting, from May 14 to Nov. 1 they get to start at sunrise and have to put the clams out by no later than 3 in the afternoon to avoid unhealthy spoilage and no later than 1 hour after sunset from Nov. 1 to May 14. This is a market-driven industry and the winter months do not see a consistent market for soft shells. I have already discussed the fact that while there is a plume, much of the dislodged sediment actually settles back to the affected areas. Does Mr. Horstman know that a strong blow, lasting for days will suspend silt over huge areas of rivers, far more than clamming will? That resuspended silt came from the land (not clamming). Most associations such as the newly formed one he is the executive officer of, have projects already in place to investigate and mitigate land sources of silt. Perhaps a more vigorous pursuit of those would be more productive than these op-eds.

We think, he states, it’s time to develop a clear management plan for this valuable species, taking into consideration clam populations, their immense value to the ecosystem, the residual damage of hydraulic harvest and the views of all stakeholders. What damage? He doesn’t cite details. SAV damage is regulated already by the closing of SAV areas where no hydraulic harvesting is allowed, and oyster bars are separated from clamming. There has been a successful clam management plan in existence for many decades. There is a boogeyman under the bed. Noise, cheers, and marching.

Clams today, he says, represents a tiny portion of the Bay’s seafood harvest. He doesn’t even speak to the immense value of clams for crab bait. He missed discussing a major importance of clamming. I’m sure he is an excellently skilled director, but he has much to learn about clamming. As the demand for clams increases, we should answer some important questions before clam dredging grows into an even larger problem. I have to wonder if he knows the differences between soft clams, piss clams, hard clams, white clams, mannose and razor clams? Warning – it is partly a trick question. These are just the market clams that live in the Bay and the tributaries. All together clams represent a huge economic value chain that runs from many of Maryland’s fishing communities out through the state. Instead of recognizing this value, and the safeguards that lessen various issues, clamming is by definition, according to Mr. Horstman, a “problem” from the get-go. I think the problem is unsubstantiated comments and open bias when good judgment, data, and reason should prevail.

Our rivers are virtually choking from sediment. How is that possible when we have been reading for the past year or so that water quality is the best it has been in years? Watermen can see it firsthand. I guess it is hard to see such things from behind a computer in an office.

Our rivers are already listed by the EPA as impaired for sediment pollution, among other pollutants. Is he claiming clam dredging is responsible for the sediment overload and other pollutants? Try checking land-based sources of sediment.

Our rivers are virtually choking from sediment. So, the first question we might ask is: Should we continue to allow hydraulic dredging in impaired rivers when we know it causes catastrophic SAV damage and creates large areas of sediment pollution capable of killing oyster spat and all the underwater life it chokes out? The second question might become: Are there better ways to protect our natural resources, to benefit all stakeholders while ensuring a healthy and sustainable clam population? When these policy and executive directors have doubts about the issues they always trot out the same old tired arguments and go over the top with their hyperbole. Where are the factual components of their arguments? You can’t have a discussion with someone who just wants to set the world on fire all the time. He talks about a sustainable clam population but he never even hints at a sustainable fishery. By all appearances, his goal is to put an end to clamming. Also, where is “all” the underwater life that gets choked out? All? That’s total. There is no data in his piece that any gets choked out.

The most confusing statement is his conclusion. Our rivers belong to all of us. The current hydraulic practices hurt more of us than they help. Bizarre to say the least. Who is “us” in his mind? Sounds like it is people opposed to clamming. His piece clearly casts clammers as the enemy and not part of “us”, but in fact, the Bay belongs to them too. They are part of us.

He encourages action for the benefit of all of the stakeholders. What action does he want his readers to consider? I would hope that self-educating from many different angles would be part of that process. But here he is minimizing and marginalizing the incredible economic benefits that are woven all through the value chain that is Maryland’s commercial fishery. The word resource has never in my years of researching Bay resources been used to describe sea nettles. Yes, they have a part in the ecosystem but no one wants to interact with or protect them. That fact alone tells you that the words, natural resource, implies human need and interaction. I can only assume that Mr. Horstman does not eat crab or clams and would like for others to follow his example.

Make your own mind up after doing the research. Do not just got to websites that confirm your bias. Question your assumptions, try to find the facts for the larger picture. It is never as simple as Mr. Horstman would have you believe.

Marc Castelli is an award winning painter and photographer of the Chesapeake Bay and those who work on the water.

Standing for Peace


Women in Black, a local chapter of an international women’s peace group who keep a weekly silent peace vigil in Chestertown

Noon, Friday at Chestertown’s Memorial Park — a group of women stand silent, holding signs: “Peace,” “No War,” “Give Peace a Chance.”

The group represents an international network for peace and justice, the Women in Black. They began holding their vigils at the intersection of High and Cross Streets on Feb. 2. On Feb. 9, the group numbered ten. While the vigil is predominantly silent, the members speak to and answer questions from anyone who engages them A number of cars honked their horns as they drove by the group. Also, the women in the group distributed cards bearing the word for “peace” in a number of languages, English, German, Japanese. The back of the cards reads, “Join us for a silent Vigil for peace. WIB an International Network for Peace and Justice. Help put an end to war and violence in our world.”

The website contains the following explanation of the group’s purpose: “Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.”

The movement originated in Jerusalem in 1988, when a group of women held a Friday vigil in response to violations of human rights they believed were being committed in Palestinian areas occupied by Israeli troops. Vigils were eventually held throughout Israel, and groups in other countries held vigils in sympathy. Each group was autonomous, without a common political agenda beyond a concern for human rights and opposition to war. Because the members wore black clothing during the vigils, the name “Women in Black” naturally became attached to the movement.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil – each Friday at noon

The movement’s concerns spread beyond the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to other countries where peace and justice were perceived to be at risk. Women in Black became especially visible during the civil wars that tore apart former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Protesting violent nationalism and sectarian bloodshed, the women themselves often became the targets of attacks by fanatical nationalists. In a number of countries, the focus of the vigils has been violence against women.

In 2001, the international Women in Black movement was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women given by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and the groups in Serbia and Israel were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The local group will be in Monument Plaza across from Fountain Park and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown again this Friday at noon.  They plan to be there each Friday for the foreseeable future.

Come and join the Women in Black and Stand for Peace.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil



Chesapeake College Announces Four Finalists for President


The Chesapeake College Board of Trustees announced the selection of four finalists in its search for the school’s sixth president. Each candidate will be on campus to meet with faculty, staff, students and Mid-Shore community leaders in a series of forums over the next two weeks.

Following a four-month process that included public input on the qualifications, characteristics and values sought for the school’s new leader, the 14-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee chaired by the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, Nash McMahan, submitted four finalists to the Board of Trustees:

Clifford Coppersmith

Dr. Clifford Coppersmith, Dean at City College, an embedded community college within Montana State

Keith Cotroneo

University, Billings Montana. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University, Williamsport, PA; and College of Eastern Utah, Price, Utah.

Dr. Keith Cotroneo, President at Mountwest Community and Technical College, Huntington, West Virginia. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Quincy College, Quincy, Massachusetts; Broome Community College, Binghamton, New York; Treasure Valley Community College, Ontario, Oregon; and Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Maryland.


Dr. Ted Lewis, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer at Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville, Tennessee. He held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Lone Star College-CyFair, Cypress, Texas; and Collin County Community College, McKinney, Texas.

Dr. Lisa Rhine, Provost and Chief Operating Officer at Tidewater Community College Chesapeake

Lisa Rhine

Campus, Chesapeake, Virginia. She held prior administrative and academic affairs positions at: Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky; Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio; University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio; and Sinclair Community College, also in Dayton.

“Under Nash McMahan’s leadership, the Search Committee evaluated 72 candidates and delivered its final choices a month ahead of schedule in response to the community’s desire for an expedited process,” said Blenda Armistead, Board of Trustees Chair. “From our faculty, staff and student representatives to volunteers from business and academia, it was a dedicated team that committed countless hours studying the community focus group and online survey results and reviewing applications from across the country.”

Armistead said the Search Committee interviewed seven candidates last week before making its final selections.
“It’s an exceptional group of finalists with considerable experience serving in administrative and academic affairs leadership positions at community colleges, technical schools and four-year institutions,” Armistead said.

The Board expects to make its final choice by mid-March and hopes to have a new president on campus by July 1.

Dressing for Success by Nancy Mugele


Have I told you that I am a member of the newly formed Talbots Advisory Council? Talbots – the women’s clothing retailer – not Talbot – the Eastern Shore county. Don’t tell Jim, but I was recently asked to be a member based upon my shopping history over too many years to count. In my role I get to preview catalogs and offer my opinions on the clothing, models, seasonal colors and layouts of the pages. After each month’s assignment, I am entered into a drawing to win a very generous Talbots gift card. And, while I really want to win a gift card, I am greatly enjoying the “advising” piece. Makes me feel like I am in my 20s again.

Some of you may know that I began my career in advertising in NYC. It was exactly like Mad Men, although it was the early 1980s — sophisticated clothes, two-martini long lunches, work hours that began at 10 a.m. but lasted well into the night, and two clients in Baltimore. My first account was Domino Sugar and that gave me a taste (pun intended) of what Baltimore had to offer. I had my first steamed crabs at O’Brycki’s, went to an Army-Navy football game at Memorial Stadium, ate my way through Little Italy, and was hooked. My second Baltimore client was Noxell Corporation and I moved to Hunt Valley to work there in 1987. I met Jim on an Amtrak train on a very snowy night 31 years ago last week, as I traveled to Baltimore to interview, but that is another story.

Women in the workplace had become the norm during the 80s; yet, we still needed to work hard to establish equality in our professional lives. Power dressing was one way to achieve it. It was “highly recommended” to me by my intense female boss that I wear heels and tailored suits (complete with shoulder pads) to work. She wore this uniform, religiously, every single day. (She did give me my first Hermès scarf though, so I cannot say anything negative about her.)  I chose Talbots clothing early in my career for affordability, and the classic and timeless looks that became the foundation of my professional wardrobe. Of course, I was also trying to communicate a certain seriousness with my clothing to combat my youthfulness. Thankfully, tailored suits were never a requirement in the school cultures I have most recently worked in, but, Talbots is still my go-to for three essential elements — skirts, coats and dresses.

Reviewing Talbots spring catalog pages for content, style, color and fashion reminds me of my days working on Cover Girl cosmetics at Noxell. I worked on lipsticks and nail polishes and was responsible for selecting seasonal shades and promotional vehicles. I once named an entire fall collection of lips, nails, blushers and eyeshadows after fabrics — Plum Wool being one of my favorite colors that season. I also remember well the retouching of the print ads and display units. Changing model’s eye color, whitening and closing gaps in teeth, and thinning noses are some of the things I ordered on photographs of seemingly beautiful models. While I am not proud of this today, given my work to help students understand media literacy and to think critically about images they see, altering photos and images remains an integral part of the fashion and cosmetic world even today. While advertisers still need to do a better job in this area, I applaud companies like Talbots and Dove for using real people and models who better represent all women and men in their marketing efforts.

I am pretty sure Talbots has invited many, many diverse people to be on their advisory council, but that does not bother me at all. I still consider it an honor and am crossing my fingers I win this month’s gift card!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

New Program Allows Dogs to Comfort Children during Witness Testimony


A new pilot program that brings dogs into the courthouse to help children during court proceedings has launched in two circuit courts in Maryland.

The Courthouse Dog and Child Witness Pilot Program is now available within Anne Arundel and Harford County circuit courts. This pilot program allows facility and therapy dogs to accompany child witnesses who are testifying or appearing in court in criminal or civil cases.

State Sen. Bryan Simonaire, District 31, spearheaded the idea behind the pilot program. Anne Arundel County Circuit Court partnered with the Caring Canines Pet Therapy team to assist with the implementation.

Caring Canines is a pet therapy program created by Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat in Davidsonville. It provides certified pet therapy teams in an effort to create a peaceful presence to those in need in our community.

“The Dogwood Acres and Caring Canines teams are thrilled to see this program up and running,” said Erin Bogan, marketing director for Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat. “It has been a long-time dream for us to see our amazing dogs helping those in the court system who may need extra support to make their experience less traumatic.”

According to the court administrator for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, witnesses eligible for the program will be identified by the state attorney’s office, a best interest attorney or a volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as CASA. The request must be made in writing to the court and will go before the court’s administrative judge for approval.

Since the program’s inception, both Anne Arundel and Harford County circuit courts have not received any written requests; however, both courts expect to see requests in the coming months.

“We’re looking forward to receiving requests because we’ve seen how helpful dogs can be in easing the stress of children who come to court,” said Judge Angela Eaves, Administrative Judge for Harford County Circuit Court.

Teams of trained facility dogs and their handlers will join Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, Judge Laura Kiessling, Administrative Judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit (Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties), and State Court Administrator Pamela Harris for a ceremony at the Anne Arundel Circuit Court in Annapolis this afternoon. Following remarks, the facility dogs and their handlers will take a short tour of the courthouse.

Habitat: When Dreams and Land Development Meet by Robert Rauch


Land development comes in many different types and sizes. Large or small, every project starts with a dream. Those dreams are often complicated with unexpected reality, the reality that any type of land development is complicated and requires the support of many professional consultants. Here are three very different examples of land development.


George and Mary Livingston purchased a 20-acre waterfront lot on the Miles River to build their dream home. They thought that all they needed to do was to hire an architect to prepare the house plans and find a contractor to build the house. They quickly learned there was much more to the project and many other businesses and professional services were required to get approval to build their dream home.

James Henry and two of his friends and business associates love the Eastern Shore. They dreamed of owning a waterfront farm that they could use for hunting and fishing for their family and friends. They found the perfect, 200-acre farm with 2,000 feet of unprotected waterfront, 40 acres of marsh, 60 acres of woods and 100 acres of productive farm fields. An existing small historic farmhouse was well suited for a hunting lodge.

There was also deep water and they imagined building a dock and owning several boats. Unfortunately, the cost of the property was higher than they could justify for their personal recreation. The eroding shoreline also presented a future expense that they did not have the financial capabilities to complete. They decided that they should subdivide several lots from the farm to generate income to support the project. They believed that the only professional services they would need to create the lots and make the sales was an attorney, a surveyor, a contractor, and a realtor.

The Jumbo Land Company, a nationally recognized planned community developer, placed an option on four separate contiguous farms to create a 600-acre site for a 1,000 unit mixed use development. The developer hoped to be able to get the necessary permits and approvals to start construction in 2 years. Jumbo is an experienced developer and they assembled a team of local experts to get the desired approvals.


The Livingston’s discovered that a survey plat is needed to verify the legal status of the lot or parcel planned for their home. This plat is the basis for the creation of a site plan for the house and all related improvements. The plat must also show all environmentally regulate areas, including tidal and non-tidal wetlands, forest limits, easements, right of ways, and buffers. An environmental scientist must verify the wetland limits and confirm all regulated buffers, setbacks and environmental easements. The surveyor will confirm the location of any legal road, utility, pedestrian or other regulatory easements.

The site plan must show the location of the well and septic system. An environmental scientist that specializes in on-site water and wastewater systems must locate and test an approvable sewage reserve area properly sized for the proposed home. The proposed sewage reserve area must be tested and approved by the local Environmental Health Director. A well driller or qualified consultant must obtain a permit to construct a potable well. An approved stormwater management plan must be designed by a qualified civil engineer. A site and grading plan is required for the construction of all of the site improvements that include driveways, fencing, mounding, swales, landscape areas etc. A sediment and erosion control plan is required for the proposed improvements.

Additional design services are required for pools, out-buildings, docks, shore protection and clearing of wooded areas. If the lot is located in the Critical Area, Critical Area Commission approval may be required. Verification of the 100-year flood plain must be completed by a licensed surveyor. If the regulated floodplain line is determined not to be correct, a registered professional surveyor can prepare a Letter of Map Amendment for approval by FEMA. The acceptance of the new flood boundary can then be used for regulatory purposes and lending institution insurance administration. The Livingstons discovered that the entire purchase, design, permitting and approval process could take well over a year to complete. The construction of the house would take another year to be ready to occupy.

Mr. Henry and his associates will require all of the same professional services that the Livingston’s needed for the development of their single-family home. The scope of the services will however be more extensive due to the size of the property and the multiple lots expected to be developed. A lawyer will be required to represent the partners in the regulatory process required for the desired subdivision. The buyers want to reserve all of marshland for hunting waterfowl, thirty acres of woods for deer and small game hunting, and at least 50 acres of the farm field for goose and dove hunting. Rural Countryside zoning limits the size of subdivided lots to a minimum of 20 acres. The land that the buyers want to reserve for their use can be consolidated into a single lot or divided into six or fewer parcels. Four additional residential lots can be created from the residual 80 acres.

A qualified land planner with complete knowledge of local zoning and subdivision regulations should be employed to design the most efficient site plan and subdivision plan to meet the owner’s needs and create lots that are marketable for the highest return. Decisions related to water access, roads, and wildlife pond construction will require the services of a design engineer. Well and septic services will be required on all of the proposed lots, as well as the parcel that the buyers plan to retain. An environmental scientist will be required to determine if individual wells and septic systems or shared facilities are the best water and sewer option for the project. If the best option for water and sewer service is a shared septic system and well, approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment will be required for design and construction approvals.

An engineer will be required to design the collection, treatment and disposal system for the shared wastewater treatment system and treatment for the shared well. An experience lawyer is necessary for the preparation of community rights and responsibility agreements. This agreement will establish the rights and responsibilities associated with access to the water, maintenance and financial obligations associated with share utilities and shared roads for each lot owner.

The buyers should also employ the services of an architectural archaeologist and an architect experienced in historic restorations to determine what can be done to the historic farmhouse. The approval process for this type of project will require meetings with the county planning staff, Planning Commission, Technical Advisory Committee, and the County Commissioners. Environmental groups, and concerned residents can be expected to participate in the public approval process. Permitting and approval of the project took a great deal more time than expected. Testing for the septic approvals were delayed due to groundwater conditions and testing extended into a second year. The public process and mandatory meeting schedules, hearing requirements and appeals extended the time for the approval of the project to over three years.

The Jumbo Land Company is very experienced and typically prepared for the extensive purchase, design, permitting and approval process associated with a major mixed-use development. A qualified land planning firm with experience in designs for the targeted markets is a necessity. A professional consulting firm that offers engineering, surveying, and environmental science must verify the extents of the property and site development constraints that will limit the developable area for the project. Protected habitat must be identified and incorporated into the site design. Public water and sewer are required for this type of project. A qualified professional will be required to study the capacity of the existing utility systems and quantify the impacts of the proposed development. Conceptual designs, will include collection system and right of ways, pumping stations and well locations, water storage needs, electrical service requirements, and on-site and off-site transportation requirements.

Compliance and consistency with the Comprehensive Master Plan and the Master Water and Sewer Plan is required for review and approval of all aspects of the project. A qualified land development lawyer, the land planner and the engineering team must work together to obtain the required plan revisions to support the project. Stormwater management concept plans should be completed and incorporated into the concept development plan. The public approval process for this type of project is extensive and time consuming. A large investment must be made at-risk to simply prepare a concept suitable for public review and approval. Financing considerations should take into account the long approval process and at-risk investments. A consultant experienced with grant and loan funding can assist in assuring the financial feasibility of the project. Studies, designs, permitting, financing and the public approval process extended over five years. Appeals from opponents and uncooperative public bodies further delayed the start of the project. Fortunately the Jumbo Land Company was not unaccustomed to this type of project timing and was able to survive the delays and start the project.

The names and properties used in the examples are fictional and intended to illustrate typical development scenarios that might be encountered on the Eastern Shore. The description of services and processes related to each type of development are representative of many of the professional services a land developer requires.

Robert Rauch, P.E. is the President of RAUCH inc., a civil engineering, survey, architectural and construction management firm based in Easton, Md. Bob is a Registered Professional Engineer in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. He serves on the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, the Board of Directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, and The Board of Visitors of University of Maryland, A. J. Clark School of Engineering, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering. In 2016 RAUCH inc. was recognized as Talbot County’s Small Business of the Year. Bob was also recognized in 2017 as Talbot County’s Businessman of the Year.

Is Another Bay Bridge Even Necessary? by Benjamin Ford


“Is another Bay Bridge crossing even necessary?”

A recent meeting in Chestertown regarding a potential third span crossing into Kent County was incredibly well attended. By my very rough count, there were at least 250 people there on the Thursday evening. Most seemed to be against the idea of a third span and the explosive development a span would doubtlessly bring to the most rural of MD counties. Arguments were made about economics and debt, about why MD taxpayers should bankroll expenditures at Delaware beaches, about rural vistas, about prime agricultural land, and about disenfranchisement and political backstabbing. These arguments are all good ones, but I hope that the powers that be seriously look to the future to determine if creating a third span at any point across the Chesapeake is even a valid idea.

Since November of 2017, appliances have been delivered to warehouses in Southern California from manufacturers in El Paso, Texas in “big rig” trucks. Now, this isn’t anything new, but you would hardly recognize the long haul truckers driving these rigs. Disappearing fast are the men and women who delivered 70% of all goods in the US. Indeed, these new trucks are autonomous (though a human rides along as backup for now); piloted by computers and sensors, they drive through four states to deliver your washing machines and ovens at a lower cost while avoiding the busiest traffic times.

Forbes Magazine predicts that there will be over 20 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020. A recent beer delivery in Colorado was delivered by a driverless rig made by Uber. Tesla’s Elon Musk says “”Every truck we sell has Autopilot as standard,” Musk said of the Semi, which goes into production in 2019. “This is a massive increase in safety.”” Daimler, the company that owns Mercedes, is in on it too and hope to have a truck in production within a few years.

The teamsters don’t think their jobs will be obsolete for another 40 years; the developers of these trucks and software engineers in Silicon Valley say less than 5.

Our transportation system may be transformed for the average person. Most people at this point have used Uber or Lyft, or at least know what these services do. Imagine a commute where your subscription driving service pilots an autonomous car (or van) to your front door exactly when you need to leave for work? Imagine being able to order a car that will meet you in your driveway so you can go see a movie or go buy groceries. Imagine being able to meet friends out on Friday and not having to worry about overindulging.

Imagine not owning a car at all.

There is no other modern “investment” that fails to provide any sort of return (in fact, it depreciates as soon as you buy it) and sits around unused most of it’s time (with the exception of, hopefully, health insurance). Imagine all the billions of capital sitting and peoples garages and driveways instead invested in portfolios, vacations, or educations!

Imagine getting on an autonomous car, van, or bus and going to Ocean City from DC or Baltimore!

One of the coolest potential features of the autonomous driving revolution is the ability to drive in convoy. Long haul autonomous trucks will be able to essentially “park” right on another trucks bumper and draft, saving lots of energy (did I mention most of the trucks are fully electric?) and space. The same, hopefully would go for commuter autonomous vehicles.

Take the image below. It’s a satellite image of the east bound span from 2014. There are 24 cars in the quarter mile of road shown. If each car carries 1.5 people, that’s roughly 612 people on the bridge at any given time.

The image below (excuse my sloppy photoshop) shows what autonomous commuter vehicles could do for traffic “bandwidth”. If the cars (there are now roughly 70) were drafting in convoy and had the same passenger density, the passenger count on the bridge at any given time is now 1785. If ride-sharing bumps the number of people per vehicle to say, 2.5 on average, that’s 2975 people on the bridge at any given moment.

Now, I’m no engineer, but Washington State commissioned a study in 2004 (which was a LONG time ago as far as construction costs go) that sought to project cost per lane mile of suspension bridges. Their number was $67.2 million per lane mile. Even if the necessary 9 mile bridge to Tolchester were only two lanes (yeah, right), the cost would be over $1.2 billion dollars to Maryland taxpayers (and that’s just the bridge, not the legal fees or approach roads, etc.). I would hate to see Marylanders make that extraordinary investment just to see the need for increased connectivity be rendered obsolete by other, free-market technological changes.

Benjamin Ford
Chestertown, MD

P.S. Weren’t we promised flying cars by now?”


A Blooming Amaryllis, Hibernation and Spring by Nancy Mugele



In December, I received an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift from a Kent School Kindergarten student. Over the years I have not had much luck with winter flowering bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites, so I almost did not even open the box. I kept it in my laundry room for two weeks until I summoned up enough courage to pot the bulb. Carefully nurtured in a sunny spot on my kitchen counter, it has seemingly been brought back from hibernation. I am now amazed by the breathtaking beauty and bounty from this mighty bulb. There is a brightness in my kitchen from its simple elegance, and gazing at its red blooms gives me hope for the warmth and magic of spring.

I have also literally watched the Chester River come back from its forced hibernation – released and flowing freely twice this month during our January freeze and thaw. Though beautiful to look at, both the amaryllis and the cold river make me yearn for spring in the still-early part of this winter.

Animals have it right. They sleep for long periods of time in the dreary, cold winter and awaken in the spring. I used to think that the winter was a very good time for humans to hibernate as well. Living and working in New York City in the 1980s, walking 20 blocks to and from my advertising job was miserable in the dead of winter. In general, New Yorkers don’t see each other as they fast-walk on the sidewalks, but in the winter, bundled up in big coats and hats, people definitely ignore each other. It was a cold existence during the winter months, and it was in those months that I began to hibernate with books.

Winter, even more than summer, signals reading time to me and the grey days of February always make me yearn for hot tea and a good book – even when I am at work. During D.E.A.R.S. (Drop Everything And Read Silently) time at Kent School, I read, too. This month I have selected Brene Brown’s newest Braving the Wilderness – a recommendation from the Reese Witherspoon Book Club – about the practices of true belonging and who we really are in our hearts.

In my mother daughter book club with Jenna we have most recently been reading about the great wars in The Nightingale, The Alice Network, The Zookeeper’s Wife and next up Lilac Girls. In The Zookeeper’s Wife, a true account of Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski who save more than 300 Jewish refugees from the Nazis by hiding them in their zoo, Antonina wondered if humans viewed the war days in the same way as wintering animals, as “a sort of hibernation of the spirit, when ideas, knowledge, science, enthusiasm for work, understanding, love – all accumulate inside, where nobody can take them from us.” Her journal entry resonated with me.

Reading helps us imagine a time and place different from the one in which we sit and these recent novels help us to experience the pain of war. I do believe it must have been like “hibernation of the spirit,” especially for those living under the rule of their oppressor. Thankfully, though, no one can ever take away the sacred feelings of our mind and heart.

Reading (and writing!) brings joy to the soul and this winter it has become a family affair. Jim is reading Ali, one of 2017’s top ten books, and the biography of a sports figure who intrigued him as a boy and whom he met on an airplane after we were married. Kelsy, who prefers mysteries, is reading Murder in Music City about her home city of Nashville and our niece Amanda is reading The Last Mrs. Parrish – also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. James is reading The River in Denver. All of these selections inspire us during our winter hibernation.

Am looking for signs of spring and my next book…

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Op-Ed: Hydraulic Dredging for Clams on the Rise as is the Damage by Jeff Horstman


Hydraulic dredging for clams in our rivers is on the rise. Many of us have witnessed the damage this practice causes.

Clamming licenses in Maryland have sharply increased over the past few years, from just eight in 2013 to over 30 in 2016, perhaps signifying a modest comeback of the soft-shell clam and reflecting the increasing popularity of clams as crabbing bait. Similar to oysters, clams are a vital filter feeder and key component in the ecological food chain. Historically, the clam population has been decimated by overharvesting and disease, and, without a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) management plan, is now at risk of another serious population downturn. Today’s clam populations mirror those of oysters, resting at only about 1 percent of historic levels.

The practice of harvesting clams with a hydraulic dredge is akin to underwater strip mining. High velocity jets of water strip away the river bottom, leaving trenches that can be two feet deep and three feet wide, while a mechanical conveyor belt attached to a long metal arm churns through the newly cut river bottom collecting clams. This action causes major damage to the river floor and irreversible damage to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, ripping up their roots and leaving large sediment pollution plumes in its wake.

According to multiple studies, hydraulic dredging is catastrophic to SAV beds and the sediment kills oyster spat in surrounding areas. While there are regulations aimed at prohibiting hydraulic dredging in SAV beds, some dredging is allowed in and near oyster sanctuaries. Additionally, it is getting much more difficult to determine where SAV beds are located as they continually change and many large SAV beds are frequently not mapped at all, leaving them vulnerable to this destructive practice.

Hydraulic clam harvesting currently is allowed year-round and the practice is increasing without any assessment of the growing environmental damage it’s causing. Day after day, these hydraulic machines scour, scrape and gouge the river bottoms, producing thousands of pounds of sediment pollution. We think it’s time to develop a clear management plan for this valuable species, taking into consideration clam populations, their immense value to the ecosystem, the residual damage of hydraulic harvest, and the views of all stakeholders. Clams, today, represent a tiny portion of the Bay’s seafood harvest. As the demand for clams increases, we should answer some important questions before clam dredging grows into an even larger problem.

Our rivers are already listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as impaired for sediment pollution, among other pollutants.

Our rivers are virtually choking from sediment. So, the first question we might ask is: Should we continue to allow hydraulic dredging in impaired rivers when we know it causes catastrophic SAV damage and creates large areas of sediment pollution capable of killing oyster spat and all the underwater life it chokes out? The second question might become: Are there better ways to protect and manage our natural resources, to benefit all stakeholders, while insuring a healthy and sustainable clam population?

Our rivers belong to all of us. The current hydraulic harvesting practices hurt more of us than they help.

Jeff Horstman is executive director of ShoreRivers, Inc.