Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said some proprety owners have told him they don’t want people taking pictures of their shoreline by boat.
The local soil conservation district sought a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, using the assistance of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and other universities.
The study, if approved, would be made by boat and the soil conservation office would offer technical assistance to property owners who don’t want to lose land to tidal erosion, said Bruce Young, district manager. The study is not intended for use as a regulatory document, he said. “We go out and assist landowners, that is our purpose,” he said. “This data, I feel, would be a very valuable tool.”
Last week, Young said landowners are not required by law to protect their property if they don’t want to. But some may be interested to know if they have an erosion problem, how fast it is happening and how best to protect their part of the shoreline.
Any erosion work requires a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment, which is not an easy process for most landowners, Young said.
“You have to show you have an erosion problem before you can do something,” said C. Scott Hardaway Jr., geologist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
“You guys got a lot of shoreline,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition for grant money out there.”
The St. Mary’s County Comprehensive Plan states there are more than 400 miles of shoreline.
“You have a lot of this stuff already. We’re going to put it into one package,” Hardaway said.
Morris said he sympathized with those who don’t want their shoreline property photographed. “I understand that. That’s a privacy issue. People aren’t too happy with that concept.”
The project would be undertaken by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Hardaway said, “it’s not the marine police.”
“It’s not going to be everyone’s shoreline,” Young said, only areas showing erosion problems, and does not attach private property ownership information.
“To whom is this data available?” Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) asked.
Young said the data wouldn’t be any different than the aerial maps shown on the St. Mary’s County government website and other local land-use planning maps available in county government offices.
“If that’s the case, why would we go and spend all this money?” Jones asked.
It would be grant money and not St. Mary’s County taxpayer money, Young said.
Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said the challenge is for the erosion plan to remain a plan and not become a mandate. With other intrusions on privacy, “the word back to me is enough is enough,” he said.