Tag Archives: Department of Natural Resources

Claiborne Community Plans for Storm Clouds Ahead

By JENN DAVIS
Capital News Service

CLAIBORNE — Claiborne was spared last year when Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on fishing towns just down the shoreline.

But few of the sleepy communities that dot the Eastern Shore are likely better prepared for the worst than this unincorporated enclave of 100 residents.

A couple years ago, they pooled more than $55,000 of their own money, without any outside help, to transform an old wood church into a community center for potlucks and a disaster refuge for storms.

Not coincidentally, the greater Claiborne area is home to a host of “disaster junkies,” as they call themselves. They include the president of a disaster communication company, a former national Red Cross executive, a former director for Organization of American States — and Jack Harrald, the director of the Center for Community Security and Resilience at Virginia Tech.

The seaside enclave is located down a narrow, flat, bumpy road, just 10 miles west of St. Michaels. Century-old homes with water views rest snugly alongside each other. There are boats in their backyards, and residents have access to a small, hidden beach.

Harrald has been the driving force behind the Claiborne’s grassroots disaster planning. He and his wife bought a second home there in 2003, while he was still director of the George Washington University Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management. They have lived in the community full time since his retirement in 2008. He has since established a new center at Virginia Tech.

The Claiborne homeowner’s association acquired the vacant Methodist church in 2011 and christened it Claiborne Village Hall, with the intention of creating a community gathering place for poetry nights, book clubs and concerts.

Harrald said he and other community leaders also proposed developing a disaster plan that would use the church, which sits on high ground, for emergency assistance and supplies. They were inspired by the near misses of hurricanes Irene and Sandy and by projections of an increase in the severity of storms and flooding due to climate change.

During community discussions about emergency preparedness and evacuations, many people admitted they would not evacuate during a major storm, he said. That presented a problem for disaster planning.

“There’s a consensus that people should leave early,” he said, citing heavy traffic on major roadways as a problem. “If you don’t leave early, you have to be prepared to ride it out.”

So he proposed adding emergency electricity, a septic system, a water service and a full kitchen and bathroom and to the community center, since the village runs on two wells. The renovations would provide residents with a temporary place to cook meals and sleep while they fixed their homes or, in a worst-case scenario, rode out the storm.

“The community would have access to immediate assistance in the aftermath of disasters,” Harrald said.

He applied for about $50,000 of Hurricane Sandy disaster funds from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency for the project. But the state rejected his application about a month ago, explaining in a letter that the project did not meet eligibility requirements to qualify for funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant program.

Funneled from the national level to the state governments, the funds often have strict requirements for use, making it harder for innovative proposals to qualify, said Chris Cortina, the coastal planning and community coordinator at the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Harrald is revising the proposal and plans to resubmit.

In fact, he hopes to get government buy-in for making the Claiborne project a prototype that could be replicated and adapted to other communities that stand in harm’s way.

“I think there should be a change in funding, from post-event recovery to pre-event planning,” he said. “These investments can lower emergency costs later.”

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Public Fishing = Fishing License Required

From Department of Natural Resources – Who needs a Maryland License or Maryland Registration?

Unless exempt below, anglers fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, Coastal Bays or tributaries must be licensed or registered with the State. You do not need to be licensed or registered with the State if you are:
•Under 16 years of age;
•A registered angler with the State of Maryland and fishing from a boat holding a valid tidal/salt water license issued by Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the Commonwealth of Virginia or the State of Maryland;
•In possession of a valid commercial tidal fish license;
•Fishing from a licensed commercial fishing pier;
•A registered angler with the State of Maryland and fishing on a free fishing pier;
•Fishing from a licensed charter boat;
•Fishing on a free fishing day – the first two Saturdays in June and July 4;
•A registered angler with the State of Maryland and possesses a Virginia Saltwater recreational fishing license; or
•In possession of a Potomac River Fisheries Commission recreational fishing license.
•A resident of MD, on active duty with the armed forces, on leave with official leave orders.

If you have any questions about fishing licenses, visit the DNR web site www.dnr.maryland.gov or call 1-877-620-8367.

The following information was gathered from the following web site. If you want more information about a particular site or would like to see an aerial map of the exact location, visit www.hookandbullet.com/cn/fishing-queen-annes-md.

Centreville Locations
Alder Branch, Butler Cove, Conquest Beach, Earle Creek, Emory Creek, Gravel Run, Grove Creek, Mezick Farm Pond Dam, Middle Quarter Cove, Mill Stream Branch, Miller Creek, Piney Cove, Reed Creek, Robin Cove, Three Bridges Branch, Tilghman Cove.

Chester Locations
Bryans Cove, Cabin Cove, Calfpasture Cove, Tubby Cove, Wickes Beach.

Grasonville Locations
Abbott Cove, Bogle Cove, Ditchers Cove, Durdin Creek, Earle Cove, Hail Creek, Little Queenstown Creek, Queenstown Creek, Sadlers Cove, Salthouse Cove, Shipyard Creek, Tilghman Creek, Walsey Creek, Wesley Creek, Winchester Creek, Wye Narrows.

Rock Hall Locations
Church Creek, Cliffs Bight, Corsica River, Deep Cove, Eastern Neck Narrows, Fryingpan Cove, Goose Cove, Grays Inn Creek, Langford Creek, Langfords Bay, Long Cove, Short Cove, Wilson Pond.

Frankenfish Fever – Round Two

Maryland is offering fishermen prizes worth up to $200 for killing snakeheads. The Department of Natural Resources says prizes in its second annual snakehead contest include a $200 gift card from Bass Pro Shops. Fishermen can also win a Maryland State Passport that allows entry to state parks and boat launches as well as discounts on boat rentals. Three winners will be picked in a random drawing in November. Fishermen can enter by submitting catch details and a photo of their dead snakehead online on the DNR Angler’s log. DNR officials say the snakehead was illegally introduced into the Potomac and has since been found as far away as the Rhode and Nanticoke Rivers. The voracious predator can harm native fish populations.

Attorney General Confirms DNR Watermen Probe

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the Department of Natural Resources sought court orders allowing the placement of tracking devices on the boats of watermen. State lawmakers, including 36-D Delegate Michael Smigiel, had asked the department to provide evidence that DNR acted lawfully in its investigation into possible natural resources violations. A year ago, several Dorchester County watermen found a tracking device underneath the sterns of their boats. DNR Secretary John Griffin admitted to placing the devices on the vessels to monitor any illegal activity. He said his department had obtained warrants for the devices. A letter sent earlier this month by Deputy Attorney General John B. Howard Jr. to Griffin confirmed Griffin’s claims. Smigiel said he also later received a letter from Howard saying a review found Griffin had not abused his authority. Smigiel, who has threatened to sue over the probe, questioned why the attorney general’s office would not reveal which court authorized the placement.

Legislators Seek Information on Warrants for DNR Tracking Devices

By ELLEN STODOLA
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – Two Maryland legislators are using a recent Supreme Court decision to pressure the Department of Natural Resources into releasing warrants used to install GPS tracking devices on several boats last year.

They’re also pushing legislation that would explicitly prohibit the department from using GPS on boats without court orders.

SB 101, introduced by Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, specifically addresses GPS devices and indicates they should only be used with a court order, with the expectation that the installation could yield results pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation.

“Even Dorchester County watermen have constitutional rights,” said Colburn, in response to incidents last year when several watermen found GPS tracking devices on their vessels.

Though the Department of Natural Resources maintains it had warrants for the instances in Dorchester County, it is refusing to release copies of the applications for warrants or copies of the actual warrants.

In a letter dated Feb. 3, Deputy Attorney General John Howard confirmed that the Natural Resources Police had court orders “authorizing the placement of tracking devices for the investigation of natural resource violations.”

The Department of Natural Resources said the warrants are part of investigative files, explaining the reason they are not being released.

“The Natural Resources Police use the tracking devices as an investigative tool,” said Sgt. Art Windemuth, spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police. Windemuth said the devices are always used in conjunction with necessary warrants, but he wouldn’t go into specifics in these instances.

But like Colburn, Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, believes watermen’s rights need to be better protected.

Smigiel intends to continue pushing for more information on the warrants, even threatening legal action, despite receiving the letter from Howard saying the Attorney General’s office believes Secretary of Natural Resources John Griffin acted within his discretion.

“I’ll take you to court,” said Smigiel, after repeated insistence by Griffin at an Eastern Shore Delegation meeting that the information was confidential and was part of an ongoing investigation.

But the letter makes clear that should Smigiel go forward with a lawsuit, the Attorney General’s office would side with the Department of Natural Resources.

Smigiel and Colburn have been trying to obtain information since last year, even before the Supreme Court decision, about the tracking devices through legislation, letters and questioning of representatives of the Department of Natural Resources.

Smigiel said he knew how the Supreme Court decision would come down, and now that the decision has been made, he plans to introduce legislation similar to the bill Colburn introduced in the senate.

“It’s outrageous that they won’t disclose the name of the judge,” said Smigiel, who was unsuccessful in getting more information about the judge who issued the warrants.

Smigiel also said he finds it outrageous that the Department of Natural Resources won’t give its reasons for probable cause for obtaining the warrants in the first place.

He said he means no disrespect to the Department of Natural Resources, but that he has a “profound respect for the Constitution,” and believes this is a matter where individual rights are being infringed upon.

Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, said he agrees police definitely should have a warrant to install tracking devices on boats, especially after the Supreme Court decision.

He doesn’t believe GPS tracking is a tactic that is necessary to monitor all watermen because there are only “a few bad apples.”

Simns said there are other methods of monitoring boats and watermen that are being explored.

A representative for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said the department does not use GPS trackers to monitor boats in its waterways.

Lee Walker, the Agency Outreach director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that while they use some tracking to study wildlife, it’s not something they routinely install on vessels to monitor boats.

I’ve never seen it done here, he said.

DNR Sees Drastic Decline in Poaching Activity

By ELLEN STODOLA
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – Last year, the Maryland Natural Resources Police had to shut down rockfish season a month early because of serious poaching incidents, but this year, officers have, so far, encountered no illegal activity.

Officers say the lack of poaching can be attributed to several factors, including milder weather, new technologies and tools, and a no tolerance position by the department against poaching.

“This year, prior to the season opening up, the department took a stance where they made it known that if illegal nets were found again this year that they would consider shutting the season down again,” said Sgt. Art Windemuth, spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

Though rockfish season varies throughout the year, depending on the fishing method and whether it’s for recreational or commercial purposes, gill net season runs during the months of December, January and February.

The legal method of fishing during this season involves using attended drift gill nets which fishermen float in the water and monitor close by.

The problem is that many poachers have taken to anchoring their gill nets, which is illegal, and leaving them unattended to wait for fish.

Last year, Natural Resources Police found 10,000 yards of illegal gill nets in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, with about 16 tons of rockfish recovered in those nets.

The previous year, the police had found 15,000 yards of illegal gill nets, but the key difference was those nets had only a couple hundred pounds of rockfish in them.

The weather is one of the major factors affecting the behavior of rockfish.

“When the water gets cold, they tend to school up into these deep channels,” Windemuth said.

This makes it easier to catch large batches of them, and they become easy prey for commercial watermen and poachers.

“The fish haven’t schooled up into these deep channels, they’re more spread out,” Windemuth said.

This plays a role in deterring poachers because they’re less likely to take a chance of doing something illegal if it’s less likely they’ll catch something substantial, Windemuth said.

In addition to discouraging poachers, the weather also affects the ability of commercial fisherman to bring in large numbers of fish.

James Manley, a private fisherman, said he has noticed the fish are more spread out. He also said the fish are swimming higher up in the water rather than grouping closer to the bottom, which makes it hard to catch them in his nets.

Manley said the lack of recent runoff from rain and snow has been a hindrance as well because the water is very clear, which helps fish see the nets more easily and avoid them.

In addition to natural factors playing into the rockfish season, the Natural Resources Police also have several new tools and technologies on their side that help monitor waterways more effectively.

Side-scan sonar, an imaging system recently installed on Natural Resources Police boats, allows officers to see objects below the water.

The side-scan sonar even has a feature to show the screen in different colors, making it easier to see certain things, depending on what officers are trying to detect.

The technology was put into use at the beginning of this gill net season, said Cpl. Roy Rafter, who said the device allows officers to detect nets below the surface of the water because they learn to recognize how the nets appear on the screen.

The boats are also equipped with a chart plotter, which shows where they are in the water and also brings up radar to show blips of anything in the water nearby.

Rockfish Regulations

The Department of Natural Resources plans to give lawmakers proposed changes to rockfish netting regulations after many tons of rockfish were discovered in illegal nets near Kent Island. Proposals include a “fishing plan” where anglers would file with DNR to tell them where and when they would be on the water. Anglers also would be required to mark gill nets with their names and license numbers to indicate they are legal.

DNR Boating Noise Hearings

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is seeking tighter restrictions on speed boat noise in two popular boating areas. The agency held a hearing in Elkton on boat noise levels in the northeastern Chesapeake Bay. The limit could be reduced from the existing statewide standard of 90 decibels to 88 decibels for engines made after January 1993. Older boats would still be subject to the 90-decibel rule. Another proposed regulation would prohibit cut-off switches that bypass or reduce the effectiveness of exhaust-pipe mufflers.

Rock Hall Men Facing Poaching Charges

he Maryland Department of Natural Resources says eight Rock Hall men are facing rockfish poaching charges. DNR officials say the eight are the first to face a new, tiered penalty system for first-time and repeat offenders. State officials say 43-year-old William Howard Beck and 43-year-old John Franklin Rigg were charged with violating oyster harvesting regulations in December that led to the suspension of Beck’s oyster license. DNR officials say Natural Resources Police also seized 55 illegally anchored gill nets and 3,200 pounds of rockfish during the last week and a half of February. Commercial fishermen are not allowed to anchor gill nets, but must remain nearby to reduce the loss of other species of fish and birds that become entangled.