TRENTON — The Maine Department of Marine Resources has determined that the first 70-plus oyster cages that Warren Pettegrow deployed in Goose Cove this summer were outside the boundary of the site he is leasing from the state for his aquaculture operation.
“That boundary is between 140 and 250 feet west of the nearest cages presently on site,” Jon Lewis, director of the DMR’s Division of Aquaculture, said in a Sept. 6 letter to Trenton Board of Selectmen Chairman Fred Ehrlenbach.
He was responding to a letter that Erhlenbach had sent on behalf of the board citing what he said were discrepancies between Pettegrow’s activities in Goose Cove and requirements of his state and federal permits for the oyster farm.
Lewis said in his response that Pettegrow had been advised to place the oyster cages within the lease site boundaries as soon as possible and that Pettegrow had done so.
“It appears the leaseholder’s inexperience with converting GPS coordinates from degrees, minutes and seconds to degrees and decimal minutes and coordinating these conversions with the GPS equipment may be partially to blame for this error,” Lewis said.
He told Ehrlenbach that DMR staff members who visited the site in late August also noted that there were no “corner markers delineating the approved lease site boundaries,” as required by the lease.
Pettegrow’s lease for his oyster farm is for two 25-acre tracts in Goose Cove.
Lewis also noted in his letter to Ehrlenbach that both the DMR aquaculture lease and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit require two 250-foot navigation corridors to be marked by buoys at each of the lease sites.
“Neither the DMR lease conditions nor the (Army Corps) permit makes an exception for when gear is not present on the lease site,” he said. “These navigation corridors need to be marked with the words ‘Area Open to Navigation.’”
Ehrlenbach has now sent a follow-up letter to Lewis in which he questions whether Pettegrow may have violated other terms of his lease.
“We have noted that the lessee had not deployed his oyster cages until well past the one year anniversary of the lease,” he said in his Oct. 7 letter. “He also has not established any activity in the western tract. Both of these items may be violations…”
Ehrlenbach also noted that the DMR was supposed to conduct a one-year review of the lease to determine whether a revocation of the lease is warranted. He asked whether that review has taken place and, if so, what the findings were.
Pettegrow, whose family owns the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, has been planning his oyster farm since 2009. He has said he eventually intends to raise as many as 10 million oysters in about 5,000 cages.
The DMR granted Pettegrow a lease for the two Goose Cove sites in 2012, and the Army Corps issued a permit for the oyster farm early last year.
Many residents of the Goose Cove area have strongly opposed Pettegrow’s plans, initially saying the oyster farm would ruin their view of the cove, interfere with boating and lower property values. They, along with town and county officials, also have expressed concern that the oyster cages would attract seabirds, which they said could pose a hazard to low-flying aircraft. The lease site is about 1.5 miles from the end of the runway at the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport.