** APPROVAL OF AGENDA. FISHERIES CHIEF O’REILLY REQUESTED THE ADDITION OF TWO ITEMS. [ audio ]
1. MINUTES of previous meeting. APPROVED.[ audio ]
2. PERMITS (Projects over $500,000 with no objections and with staff recommendation for approval). THE SO-CALLED PAGE 2 ITEMS, DELINEATED BELOW AS 2A THROUGH 2E WERE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED. [ audio ]
3. CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS. NONE. [ audio ]
4. CLOSED MEETING FOR CONSULTATION WITH, OR BRIEFING BY, COUNSEL. NONE [ audio ]
5. SEAGATE TERMINALS, L.L.C., #14-1667, requests authorization to dredge approximately 137,500 cubic yards of State-owned submerged land to achieve maximum depths of -42 feet mean low water, to install 100 linear feet of steel sheet-pile bulkhead, 160 linear feet of riprap revetment, a 550-foot long by 80-foot wide wharf and a 615-foot long by 50-foot wide access dock with four (4) mooring dolphins and associated catwalks, and to construct approximately 600 linear feet of living shoreline in association with a proposed bulk materials handling facility adjacent to Jefferson Street situated north of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake. The project requires a wetlands and a subaqueous permit. THE COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY VOTED TO APPROVE THE APPLICANT’S REQUEST TO CONTINUE THE MATTER TO THE MARCH 24 MEETING. [ audio ]
6. UPPER BRANDON PLANTATION, #14-1840, requests authorization to construct three (3) stone breakwater structures, with nourishment and appropriate wetland vegetation plantings; and to place a riprap revetment along a portion of shoreline within and adjacent to the James River adjacent to the Upper Brandon Conference Center & Sporting Lodge at 1802 Upper Brandon Road in Prince George County. The project requires a wetlands and a subaqueous permit. THE COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED THE PROJECT AS RECOMMENDED BY STAFF WITH A ROYALTY OF $210.00 FOR THE ENCROACHMENT OF THE SAND FILL ON 4,200 SQUARE FEET OF STATE-OWNED SUBMERGED LAND AT A RATE OF $0.05 PER SQUARE FOOT AND WITH A CONDITION REQUIRING MONITORING OF THE PLANTED VEGETATION WITH REPLACEMENT AS NECESSARY FOR A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS. [ audio ]
7. KENNETH A. and LILLIAN PAYNE, #14-1445, requests authorization to construct a 42-foot long by 14-foot wide commercial pier with eight mooring piles to create three 36-foot long wetslips, adjacent to property situated along Branson Cove in Westmoreland County. The project is protested by an adjacent property owner. THE COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED THE PROJECT AS PROPOSED.
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8. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, #09-0483, requests authorization to increase the maximum amount of cubic yards placed in their existing overboard placement site located adjacent to State-owned marsh northwest of Peeler Point in Public Ground 61 in Upshur Bay from 100,000 to 200,000 cubic yards, per dredge cycle. All other permit conditions would remain the same. The modification is part of the Upshur Bay Federal Navigation dredging project. The project requires a wetlands and a subaqueous permit. THE PROJECT WAS UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED AS PROPOSED. [ audio ]
9. PUBLIC HEARING: Removal of a portion of Additional Clam Grounds as previously set aside by the Commission in 1930, within the Ware River, in response to an application to lease oyster planting ground. THE COMMISSION VOTED 7-1, WITH MR. CLOSE OPPOSED, TO REMOVE THE NORTHWESTERN MOST PORTION OF THE 1930 SET-ASIDE AREA AND ALLOW THE AREA TO BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE LEASING. THE LEASE APPLICATION BY WARD OYSTER COMPANY WILL BE SUBJECTED TO THE ESTABLISHED LEASE REVIEW PROCEDURES. [ audio ]
10. VIRGINIA INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE: Presentation of Dr. Bob Orth’s annual review of the status of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation. DR. ORTH PRESENTED HIS ANNUAL REVIEW ON THE STATUS OF SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND IN THE COASTAL BAYS ALONG THE SEASIDE OF THE EASTERN SHORE. FOLLOWING THE PRESENTATION, THE COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY VOTED TO APPROVE $22,000 TO CONTINUE SUPPORT FOR DR. ORTH’S MONITORING OF PROP SCARS AND HIS WORK ON THE SEASIDE OF THE EASTERN SHORE TO RESTORE EELGRASS AND BAY SCALLOPS. [ audio ]
11. BRIEFING: by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on the Economic Status of the Fisheries. THE COMMISSION RECEIVED A PRESENTATION FROM CHRIS MOORE, WITH THE CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION CONCERNING A RECENT REPORT ENTITLED “ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF CLEANING UP THE CHESAPEAKE BAY” [ audio ]
12. PUBLIC COMMENTS. NONE [ audio ]
13. OFFENDERS. The Commission heard three cases on offenders with repeated offenses and natural resource violations. The Commission voted unanimously to place one individual on probation for a period of one year. The Commission also voted (7-1) to place two individuals on probation for a period of two years for violations of harvesting hard crabs from fish pots. [ audio ]
14. POUND NET: Mr. Thomas D. Gaskins applied to license and locate a pound net in the Chesapeake Bay, approximately 3,000 feet southwest of the Little Wicomico River Approach Light 2LW. Staff recommended approval of the pound net location, and the Commission voted voted unanimously to approve the pound net location, due to minimal effects of the placement of the pound net at the location. One individual provided public comment on concern over increased vessel traffic and beach erosion. [ audio ]
15. PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed final adoption of emergency amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-450-10 et seq. “Pertaining to the Taking of Bluefish,” to establish the 2015 commercial bluefish quota. Fisheries Management staff requested amendments to the bluefish regulation to establish the annual commercial bluefish quota as 608,230 pounds. The ASMFC released a coastwide commercial quota reduction of 31% due to scientific uncertainties in the estimation of the stock biomass. This means that Virginia’s 2015 commercial quota will be reduced to 608,230 pounds from the 2014 quota of 886,040 pounds. The Commission voted unanimously to approve staff recommendation to adopt amendments to establish the 2015 blue fish quota as 608,230 pounds. [ audio ]
16. PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-610-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Commercial Fishing and Mandatory Harvest Reporting,” that establish requirements of authorized blue crab fishery agents. The current regulation on commercial blue crab fishery agents is specific to the 2014 season. The regulation needed to be amended to remove the year. Staff recommended amending the regulation to limit and specify the number of agents in the crab fishery annually. In addition, the Crab Management Advisory Committee (CMAC) recommended to the Commission that the number of blue crab agents be capped at 125 agents, annually. The Commission voted unanimously to approve staff recommendation to remove “2014” from the regulation and to cap the number of blue crab agents at 125 agents, annually. [ audio ]
17. PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-270-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Crabbing,” that limit the use of fish pots by active crab pot or peeler pot fishermen. The VMRC Law Enforcement has requested staff to address difficulties within the commercial blue crab fishery with harvesters using fish pots for blue crab harvest. Law Enforcement has found that harvesters are setting additional fish pots that are designed to harvest crabs as a mechanism for placing more pots than their crab pot license allows. When staff researched the issue further they found supporting evidence in harvest data that indicates very few fish pots are being used to harvest fish in the main-stem of the bay and that there has been a substantial increase in the purchase of fish pot licenses by crab potters in the past 7 years. Staff recommended amendments to limit the use of fish pots by any individual who is an active hard crab pot or peeler pot fisherman, with exceptions for upriver areas, as well as, minnow and eel pots. Staff also recommended amending the time period for the fish pot prohibition from March 11 through 16 to March 12 through 16. There was some concern from a member of the public on including hoop pots as an exception to the amended regulation. The commission voted (5-3) to approve staff recommendation, with hopes for further work from staff on clarification of fish pots and exceptions for hoop pots. [ audio ]
18. PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-620-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Summer Flounder,” to modify the start date and landing limit for the directed landing period. This item was requested by industry to maximize the value of the allowable quota by spreading out the landings, with hopes to yield the maximum value of the fish by preventing a flooding of the market. The industry no longer felt that amendments to the season start date were warranted. The Commission voted unanimously to approve industry request to amend the commercial summer flounder trip limit to 7,500 pounds. [ audio ]
19. REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20- 252-10 et seq. “Pertaining to the Taking of Striped Bass,” to establish the annual Chesapeake Bay and Coastal recreational management measures and to modify the northwestern Chesapeake Bay management boundary for possession of commercial striped bass tags from more than one jurisdiction. Staff recommended that the Commission advertise, for a March 24, 2015 public hearing, management measures that would: establish the recreational striped bass fishery management measures for the coastal and Chesapeake Bay fisheries in 2015; modify the definitions and provisions for the northwestern Chesapeake Bay management boundary for the possession of commercial striped bass tags; specify the gear permitted to be used to harvest striped bass commercially; and, modify the commercial striped bass transfer dates. The Commission voted unanimously to approve staff recommendation. [ audio ]
20. REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20- 280-10 et seq. “Pertaining to Speckled Trout and Red Drum,” to establish the annual recreational and commercial management measures for speckled trout. Staff presented data on speckled trout, including stock status and recent events of poaching and reports of cold-stun within the bay. The most recent stock assessment found that speckled trout are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring. Three individuals provided public comment; two individuals were in favor of maintaining status-quo, while one individual was in favor of advertising for a public hearing to discuss amendments to current management measures. After expressing concern over recent poaching and cold-stun events, the Commission felt that now was not the time to amend speckled trout management measures, and voted unanimously to take no action. [ audio ]
21. REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20- 20-10 et seq. “Pertaining to Licensing of Fixed Fishing Devices” to amend the gear management measures for pound nets within the bottlenose dolphin take reduction plan and the endangered species act for sea turtle take conservation areas. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule amending the Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan and its implementing regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) on February 9, 2015. This updated rule requires the year-round use of a modified pound-net leader for offshore Virginia pound nets in specified waters of the mainstem Chesapeake Bay and coastal state waters. For consistency, the final rule also amends current regulations and definitions for Virginia pound nets under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for sea turtle conservation. The Commission voted unanimously to accept staff recommendation to advertise for a March public hearing for amendments to comply with the provisions of the final rule from the NMFS for Virginia pound net gear under the MMPA and ESA. [ audio ]
22. DISCUSSION: Request approval of the 2015 Oyster Replenishment Plan and the associated Procurement Procedures. Staff presented information on the 2015 Oyster Replenishment Plan and associated Procurement Procedures. Staff recommended 1) approval of the 2015 Oyster Replenishment Plan as well as the associated Procurement Procedures; and 2) advertising for a March public hearing, amendments to chapter 20-650-10 et seq., “Establishment of Oyster Sanctuary Areas,” to designate oyster sanctuaries and prohibit leasing of all unassigned or vacant submerged bottom that has been condemned by the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation. After much discussion on shell prices and cost-effectiveness, the Commission voted (5-2-1) to approve the Oyster Replenishment Plan and associated Procurement Procedures. The Commission voted unanimously to approve staff recommendation to advertise for a March public hearing for amendments to designate oyster sanctuaries and prohibit leasing of all unassigned or vacant submerged bottom that has been condemned by the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation.
The Shellfish Management Advisory Committee (SMAC) also recommended two emergency regulations to the Commission. SMAC recommended emergency amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-720-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Restrictions on Oyster Harvest” to 1) extend public harvest oyster season dates for areas set to close on February 28, to close on March 13, 2015; and 2) suspend the sale of oyster hand scrape and oyster dredge licenses until the Commission reinstates the sale of those licenses. Staff recommended suspension of license sales, but did not recommend extending the season closures. The Commission voted unanimously to approve both emergency amendments, and to advertise for a March 24, 2015 public hearing. [ audio ]
23. DISCUSSION: Request for letter of support for the protection of Mid-Atlantic stock of blueline tilefish. Staff requested, from the Commission, a letter that supports the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s initiative towards protection of the blueline tilefish stocks. Virginia has had conservation management measures in place for blueline tilefish since 2007, but is one of the few states in the Mid-Atlantic region to do so. The lack of conservation for blueline tilefish in other states resulted in exploited Mid-Atlantic stocks. The Commission voted unanimously to approve staff’s request. [ audio ]
THE FOLLOWING SO-CALLED PAGE TWO ITEMS WERE APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY:
2A. APEX, #14-1692, requests authorization to dredge 13,000 cubic yards of State-owned submerged land during an initial cycle, to achieve maximum depths of -33 feet mean low water, and to maintenance dredge 10,000 cubic yards of material on an as needed basis, adjacent to their facility at 428 Barnes Road situated along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake. Dredged material will be disposed of at an approved upland site. Staff recommends approval of the project with an instream work time-of-year restriction of February 15 to June 30 to protect anadromous fishes and a royalty assessment of $5,850.00 for the dredging of 13,000 cubic yards of State-owned subaqueous material at a rate of $0.45 per cubic yard.
2B. CHESTERFIELD COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORATION, #14-1691, requests authorization to extend an existing quadruple 10-foot by 12-foot box culvert over Falling Creek, by an additional 22.5 feet northward and 24.5 linear feet southward with associated wingwalls and riprap stabilization, and to install a 16-inch diameter ductile iron waterline by the open cut method, beneath an approximately 24-foot wide section of Falling Creek, as a part of the Lucks Lane road widening project in Chesterfield County.
2C. PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, #14-1779, requests authorization to widen an existing bridge crossing by 74 feet, spanning a 45-foot wide section of Kettles Run and to install riprap along 236 linear feet of the streambank to stabilize the area beneath the bridge, as part of the Route 28 (Nokesville Road) Widening and Improvements Project, in Prince William County. Staff recommends approval of the project with the following conditions: a mussel survey and relocation shall be performed from 100 meters upstream through 400 meters downstream of impact areas in Kettle Run. This survey must be performed by a qualified, permitted biologist, preferably no more than six months prior to the start of construction. Any relocations must be coordinated with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. A time-of-year restriction on all instream work will be in force from April 15 through June 15 and August 15 through September 30 of any year to protect the State-endangered brook floaters. All instream activities should be conducted during low or no flow conditions, using non-erodible cofferdams or turbidity curtains to isolate the construction area, blocking no more than 50% of the stream flow at any given time.
2D. MARINE HYDRAULICS, INC., #14-1207, requests authorization to install a Port Security Barrier consisting of floating sections with under-hanging 24-inch mesh netting, secured between 18 anchor and buoy structures, which encircle and protect U.S. Naval ships undergoing overhauls and repairs at their Lamberts Point Facility along the Elizabeth River at 1215 Warrington Avenue in the City of Norfolk. Staff recommends approval with a special permit condition that Buoys D, E, and F be colored yellow and Buoys D and F be lit by a slow flashing amber light per U.S. Coast Guard requirements.
2E. RICHMOND DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT REVIEW, #14-1316, requests authorization to construct the Brown’s Island Dam Walk project across the James River by retrofitting the existing Brown’s Island Dam structure into an elevated, multi-use, universally-accessible, non-motorized route across the river between the South Belvedere Street (Rt. 1/Rt. 360) and the South 9th Street roadway bridges in the City of Richmond. Recommend approval with standard in-stream work conditions and a time-of-year restriction from February 15 and June 30 of any year to protect anadromous fish species in the area.