DMR grants small-scale oyster lease

A map of the lease site.

BAR HARBOR — As opponents of a 50-acre shellfish aquaculture site in Trenton’s Goose Cove try to persuade the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the permits it issued for the operation last March, the Department of Marine Resources has approved an application for a smaller experimental lease site nearby.

The site is located about a mile away from the Goose Cove location, which opponents say will endanger aircraft using the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. It is located off the northwestern corner of Mount Desert Island in Western Bay.

Last week, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher signed off on a three-year experimental aquaculture lease that will allow the Western Bay Oyster Co., LLC to grow oysters on a 3.36-acre site located south of Oldhouse Cove in the town of Bar Harbor off the shore of land owned by the company’s owner, Matthew Gerald. He also has four limited purpose aquaculture licenses to raise oysters located within the approved lease site.

The proposed operation will grow both American and European oysters using a variety of gear types and both bottom and suspended culture techniques. According to the report on a visit to the lease site in June, water depths at high water in the area range from 9 to 11 feet along the eastern boundary and 13 to 17 feet along the other boundaries. At mean low water, some of the eastern side of the site will be at the very edge of the subtidal zone.

As described in the Nov. 23 lease decision, Western Bay will grow oysters in up to 6,000 polyethylene mesh ADPI bags moored to lines set along the sea bottom in shallow water. Some of those bags will be left in the water through the winter to test their suitability for overwintering growing oysters.

In addition to the ADPI bags, Western will place up to 1,830 wire cages 5 feet by 4 feet by 2 inches in size on the sea floor in the deepest part of the lease site. During the summer growing season, the cages may be stacked two deep. Oysters may be overwintered on the site in cages stacked two, four or six deep. The maximum height of the stacked cages, when six deep, would be 24 inches.

According to the lease application, the growing season for oysters will run from March 1 to Jan. 21. The overwintering season will run from Oct. 15 to April 21. Oysters will be harvested by hand or from a 24-foot skiff.

Western will also experiment with two other culture methods: free planting oysters on the sea floor and seeding up to 2,450 mesh predator nets folded to form 6-foot squares.

Currently, there is a small sand and gravel boat launch on Gerald’s riparian property that is used by the occasional recreational or commercial fishermen or by other aquaculturists. Under the terms of the lease, those uses will continue and Western will maintain an open 40-foot-wide navigation channel from the boat launch to deep water.

Western completed its application in September of last year. DMR sent notice of the application to state, and federal agencies, the town of Bar Harbor and its harbormaster and to owners of shorefront land located within 1,000 feet of the proposed lease. In October 2014, DMR published a notice of the application with a request for public comment in the Mount Desert Islander. According to DMR, no comments or requests for a public hearing on the application were received.

Anyone wanting to file a judicial appeal of DMR’s lease decision must do so within 40 days of the date on which it was signed by Keliher.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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