VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Tuesday afternoon, officials decided not to let a company build floating oyster beds in Virginia Beach.
It’s been a fight among several groups over waterway rights near Seashore State Park.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission recommended approval of the Lynnhaven Oyster Company’s proposal to establish floating oyster aquaculture modules, but with over 1,050 comments, many for the project, but more against it, the VMRC sided with the will of the majority that declined to establish the floating oyster cages.
They would have been located off the 64th Street boat ramp at Seashore State Park, and the proposed 21 hundred floating cage aquaculture modules would be over on the right past the boat ramp.
Bay McLaughlin went to the VMRC to get approval and he spoke emotionally.
“We grew up on the Lynnhaven. We own homes on Bay Island. We use the Lynnhaven for fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and tubing,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin established why floating cages help the business model to get more oysters and to get them to market.
“They allow us to be on the water less, and we can save money on labor. It also helps them grow faster, and we can harvest more crops per cycle.”
But the opposition came prepared including local builder Stephen Ballard.
“This one here is what they will look like when you come out of the 64th street boat ramp, and they haven’t showed you what they will look like after a year or so.”
The pictures are only artist renderings of what the floating oyster cage modules could look like. Ballard points out, however, they are to scale.
Ballard was successful in planting seeds of doubt, and that would be confirmed when the committee members voted.
Bay Island resident Tom Inglima spoke against the project.
“The applicant attempts to argue that the oysters will create a public benefit, but fails to recognize any public benefit is outweighed by the obvious public detriments. As a matter of fact, the applicant said, by his own admission, this is driven by profit.”
Matt Redford was emotional about the beauty that could be lost.
“That’s what people want to see. They want to see open spaces. They want to see beautiful water. They want to see wildlife. That’s what they want to see,” said Redford.
Betsy Reese and her husband were the only ones to speak in favor.
“Why this project is commercial in nature, it certainly enhances the preservation and efforts of those programs.”
But most of the comments were like Donna Magoon’s who lives on the water and is attached to it.
“I walk to my kitchen at this beautifully God-given creation is before me. I make the sign of the cross, and I thank God for the beauty he has created in the park of Long Creek. Please don’t mess it up.”
When it came time to vote, board member Ed Tankard was moved by Stephen Ballard’s artist renderings and wanted to see them again. Once they were brought back and placed in front of him, he said, “I’m going to have a hard time supporting this project.”
That was when it seemed the momentum was clearly on the side of “No.”
“This is a hazard with the citizens, and with navigation and restricts the citizens who use this recreational area,” Board member Will Bransom added.
At that point, Commissioner Jamie Green asked for a vote.
Kellam, Bransom, Tankard, and Headley vote no. Two would vote for the authorization, but the No’s had it, and the VMRC rejected McLaughlin’s floating oyster cage project 4-2.
Afterward, McLaughlin was gracious.
“I appreciate everyone’s time. It’s obviously not the outcome we were looking for, but we want the most loved oyster in the region, and we hope everyone will continue to support local oysters being grown here in the Lynnhaven.”