TAYLOR'S ISLAND, MD. -- Watermen say an Army Corps of Engineers experiment, in which spoil is being dumped on a barren portion of an oyster bar to see if it can be made productive, is needlessly endangering one of the largest oyster spawning areas they have left.

But the state, which approved the project, says the experiment can be only beneficial.

The corps is dredging a channel at the mouth of Slaughter Creek off Taylor's Island and dumping the dredged material, called spoil, on 2.1 acres of the 250-acre Susquehanna oyster bar in the Little Choptank River, which connects the creek and the Chesapeake Bay.

Though the oyster bar and surrounding bars are said to be some of the most productive in the state, the three-acre site was determined to be barren by the state Department of Natural Resources, said Pete Jensen, department director of fisheries.

"We wouldn't have agreed to it if we thought it would be harmful," he said.

Watermen, however, believe the spoil could easily float to other parts of the oyster bar and kill millions of shellfish.

"I know of nobody that approves of it," said Ben Parks, president of the Dorchester County Seafood Harvesting Association and a member of the county Oyster Shell Committee.

Several hundred watermen from across the state use the oyster bars in the Little Choptank each year, where thousands of bushels of oysters can be hauled from one acre, Parks said.