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Virginia CZM Program: 2008 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Aquaculture: Local Policy Development

Project Description as Proposed:

Aquaculture and related working waterfront infrastructure is a complex economic, environmental, land and water resource issue.   As many coastal localities struggle with becoming less rural and more suburban, balancing growth, preserving coastal character and culture and the delivery of public services forms the basis for a local public policy conundrum.  

As recently articulated by Edward Martin of BusinessNC.Com, “Few counties or towns discourage loss of the working waterfront. They usually follow the siren song of swelling tax bases and boast of rapid growth….  If they didn’t think it was in their best economic interests to let this happen, it wouldn’t be happening…they see a fish house that’s worth $150,000 converted to condominiums worth $5 million…. In many places, a boat slip — dock space with an electrical hookup — costs as much as a house did 20 years ago. “You’re paying $150,000 for a hole in the water,”…..  

To keep pace, new public policy must be developed.  As with most public policy questions, elected officials struggle with the concept of “progress”: balancing environmental protection with economic prosperity.  Aquaculture as a potentially new economic engine for local coastal governments begins to blur the line between the need for enhanced local environmental management and economic prosperity.  

The public policy question facing many rural coastal local governments is: “to what extent will our future economic fabric rely on the opportunities presented from a coastal environment and what public policies will govern such opportunities”  

This project proposes to place the question of public policy need for aquaculture-working waterfront sustainability (economic effectiveness of uses including jobs, business sales, and fiscal revenue) in front of local elected officials as well as to explore other economic tradeoffs and/or competing economic interest of existing local public policy.

If local government is to develop new public policy to support and sustain aquaculture-working waterfront infrastructure, tradeoffs will have to be made.

For this project, we propose the following:

1)   Develop a brief education program articulating the economic and cultural tradeoffs of various community development scenarios and public policy decisions.  The project will utilize some of the work completed in FY 2007 Task 92.02 and elsewhere.   

2) Illustrate examples of how to inventory and assess the economic effectiveness of the localities’ working waterfront economic engine.  This includes the development and applied application of regional and or local multipliers using the recently completed Virginia Sea Grant state wide clam and oyster industry assessment.  Additionally, the work of Dr George Santopietro (CZ grant 2006 Task 92.04 and Dr Kurt Stephenson CZ grant 2007 Task 92.02 as well as the Virginia Sea Grant Commercial and Recreational Fishing Industries Economic Impact Assessment IMPLAN module will be utilized when beneficial.  

3) Suggest various new or modified public policy options to strengthen aquaculture-working waterfront infrastructure to enhance local sustainability 

a. Model Comp Plan language

b. Model Ordinance

c. Identification of additional land use tools that could be modified to support a new or enhanced public policy discussion.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Lewie Lawrence; (804) 758-2311;

Project Status:

10/1/2008 - 9/30/2009; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Aquaculture: Local Policy Development (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Coastal communities within the Middle Peninsula historically have a rich maritime tradition and culture. From harvesting wild shellfish to fin fishing, the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers, have provided the region with a once thriving industry. However, in recent years there have been a variety of factors that have caused a shift away from traditional water based livelihoods. For instance, due to disease, predation and water quality, populations of harvestable shellfish have declined. Moreover, coastal communities are in transition. With a higher demand for water front properties, increased coastal development has invited wealth and affluence to the region. Therefore traditional working waterfronts have become under threat. Never the less, aquaculture may present a new opportunity to the region to help sustain a seafood and working waterfronts industry.

Mathews County, a member locality of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC), supports efforts to preserve a heritage and culture defined by working waterfronts. Therefore, this project was particularly appealing to Board members. 

The objective of this project was to ultimately question the need for public policy to sustain and enhance aquaculture-working waterfronts. To begin this endeavor MPPDC staff, with assistance from the County Supervisor, created an Aquaculture Working Waterfront Steering Committee. Consisting of commercial and hobby oyster and clam farmers, county planners, and the maritime foundation within Mathews County, this committee identified current challenges within the industry, shared business models, and discussed how the industry could be supported or enhanced by the county. Along with the information gathered from committee members, MPPDC staff researched how other coastal communities in the United States had dealt with similar issues and organized a matrix of public policy options that may be feasible in Mathews County. MPPDC staff also conducted an economic assessment of the current seafood and aquaculture industry in the Middle Peninsula.   And finally MPPDC staff worked to create an educational DVD, titled Mathews Working Waterfront for the 21st Century, which focused on the economic and cultural tradeoffs of community scenarios and the public policy options that may enhance working waterfront industries.  After careful review of the matrix, economic assessment and education DVD by committee members, MPPDC staff updated the Mathews Board of Supervisors at their monthly meeting. Though supportive of the direction the project was going the Board asked for costs associated with the public policy options before actually considering the options. 

In addition to suggesting public policy options to strengthen aquaculture-working waterfront infrastructure to enhance sustainability, MPPDC staff worked with County Planners and their consultants to develop model comprehensive plan language that reinforces the County’s commitment to its working waterfronts.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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