The House of Delegates voted along party lines Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill prohibiting oyster harvesting in five Chesapeake Bay tributaries — Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River, the Tred Avon River, the St. Mary’s River and the Manokin River.
The bill is a top priority for House Speaker Michael Busch, who sponsored it.
During floor debate, House Environment and Transportation Committee Chairman Kumar Barve cited a recent study that found that oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay are 1% of what they were before the area was colonized.
“Not all sanctuaries are equal, and these five are especially vital,” Barve said. “If they fail over the next five, 10, 15 years, the other 46 sanctuaries and the entire Chesapeake Bay will be in jeopardy.”
In his veto letter, Hogan said the bill ignores a compromise reached by a workgroup that studied ways to restore oyster populations in the Bay. He accused lawmakers of yielding to environmentalist lobbyists.
“When a diverse group of volunteer citizens and scientists reach a consensus and their hard work is thrown out by legislative interference, future efforts will face a chilling effect,” he wrote. “This bill is bad policy, is bad for our watermen—and worst of all—is bad for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Hogan’s office also highlighted letters he received from watermen who said they would be hurt by the change.
The Senate is also expected to override the veto before the General Assembly adjourns for the year on Monday night.