GOULDSBORO – Local resident Mason Johnson Tuesday night was the lone voice speaking out in support of American Aquafarms’ proposed 120-acre salmon farm in Frenchman Bay before a public hearing, where the Planning Board voted 5-0 to approve and send forth an aquaculture development moratorium ordinance for voters’ consideration at a special town meeting expected to take place in mid-November.
Johnson, who lives in Gouldsboro and runs a business in the neighboring town of Winter Harbor, clashed outside with opponents of the Norwegian-backed venture prior to Tuesday night’s hearing. He confronted the crowd of demonstrators, saying their opposition was an emotional response – not based in reality or facts – and that American Aquafarms’ plan to convert the closed Maine Fair Trade complex into its operational base held promise as a potential source of jobs for the year-round population.
The dozens of demonstrators, many of whom live in Gouldsboro and have raised families and make a living there too, challenged Johnson’s with their specific concerns about jeopardizing the marine environment and adversely affecting the region’s quality of life. But Johnson and the crowds’ differing opinions devolved into a shouting match with Gouldsboro Police breaking up the verbal skirmish before it escalated any further.
At the actual hearing, which lasted just a few minutes, none of the 28 citizens in attendance had anything – pro or con – to say about the proposed six-month freeze on finfish aquaculture development comprising 10 or more acres.