Letter: Government regulation choking economy
Just forget about economic development in Mathews County. We seem to be under siege by a government intent on destroying existing natural resource industries while choking development of new water-based economies. Why should Mathews waste its time?
First, I read (July 15 Gazette-Journal) with great interest the story of Sea Farms and its seemingly impossible position of maintaining a viable seafood and aquaculture on a previous industrial site. Mr. Sopko was forced by a host of agencies to prove his innocence of much of the historical damages, done to a small wetland area long before he was born, and nearly a century before he purchased the property.
On that same brown-field, Mr. Sopko has developed a viable business employing many and providing an important source of the highest quality locally produced and processed seafood to the local (non-fishing) community. The site where Sea Farm’s oyster piles now stand once was a gas station.
What did he do wrong? When nor’easters hit Mathews last year, some of the oyster shells slid into wetland areas (where commercial fishermen once parked). That was a sufficient "wetlands violation" to attract a seemingly endless host of over-zealous agencies to threaten and financially coerce a legitimate small business into spending hard-earned income to disprove an almost endless list of negatives compiled by agencies. I am encouraged to see that the Sea Farms "wetland restoration plan" has been approved.
Well, this week I read that agencies have been at work undoing a unique and powerful vision (along with years of planning by Mathews County) for the manmade canal at Put-In Creek. Now it is destined to fill in once again and end the rich prospect it held for local visionaries for additional local economic development. I did not know Wayne Hudgins (may he rest in peace), but he and others must have felt like they had stepped "through the looking glass" when attempting to revitalize a significant maritime artery created by dredging by the CCC for economic development nearly a century ago. As most know, the head of the creek has long been crowned with a vestigial sewer treatment plant constructed years ago on fill.
Mathews is a wonderful community with relatively solid local government, excellent schools, a wonderful library, strong local organizations and, above all, a singularly rich natural resource heritage. But maybe Mathews County should think twice about planning for a viable economic future.
Without some reason and balance being injected into myriad regulatory agencies, Mathews and other rural communities will not be able to foster future natural resource-based industries to support economic development. Let’s face it, our waters and shorelines and citizenry are the strengths that Mathews has to build upon for sustainable jobs, payrolls, tax base and quality of life for its citizens.
Sorry, Mr. Hudgins. Sorry, Mr. Sopko. Thanks for trying.