Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday, July 23, that the state has signed a four-year contract that earmarks a $2 million annual investment in Chesapeake Bay fisheries infrastructure and labor.

“Our administration has invested more than $4 billion to enhance, protect, and restore the health and vitality of our cherished Chesapeake Bay,” said Hogan. “As the chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, I am proud of the progress we’ve made and our shared commitment to take on tomorrow’s challenges.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation has agreed to provide the Department of Natural Resources the funds from the Transportation Trust Fund for ongoing and future industry efforts, including dedicated funding for equipment, labor, material, supervision and support.

The deal includes no less than $925,000 annually pledged to support wild oyster propagation and replenishment efforts through 2023 (five years).

“Probably five years ago, we got it to go from $600,000 to $800,000,” said Robert T. Brown, executive director of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. “The other $125,000 that he added to it, that’s just icing on the cake.”

The Department of Natural Resources will coordinate with county oyster committees and watermen on shared projects and priorities, including the establishment of oyster seed areas, monitoring, sampling, seed and shell plantings, surveying and transplanting.

“It’s been something that we’ve worked on for years,” said Robert T. Brown, executive director of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. “And Jim Mullen from the oyster committee has been working on it, too. We’ve been talking about going through this contract, and the governor just up and did it on his own.”

The extension was signed and witnessed by the governor on Monday July 16. The Chesapeake Bay Enhancement Program between the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Department of Natural Resources was first signed in 1996.

“Working with our partners and stakeholders, we can help rebuild the oyster population while also improving the health of Chesapeake Bay,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “This funding will go toward ongoing oyster industry programs and projects, and help design and develop new initiatives that could benefit both the bay and our working watermen.”

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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