GOULDSBORO — The town of Gouldsboro’s attorney has drawn up a draft aquaculture licensing ordinance that would apply to all farming of marine fauna and flora — from Atlantic salmon to seaweed — and set standards and requirements for both land- and ocean-based ventures seeking to operate in or from the town. The incomplete, all-encompassing document requires further work before it can be presented at a public hearing and put to voters at a town meeting.
Many months in the works, Rudman Winchell attorney Tim Pease’s 23-page draft document Thursday evening was submitted to the Gouldsboro selectmen for their review. Pease will go through the proposed Aquaculture Licensing Ordinance in detail and answer questions at the Planning Board’s next regular meeting at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, April 19, at the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club. Pease and staff scrutinized existing municipal standards, policies and regulations concerning aquaculture development in Maine and beyond. In formulating the draft ordinance, they also were assisted in the process by and took into account much input from year-round and seasonal Gouldsboro residents as well as concerned citizens in neighboring Schoodic Peninsula towns.
Imposed late last fall, Gouldsboro’s six-month moratorium on 10-acre-plus finfish aquaculture development is due to expire May 15. As part of their regular meeting, Thursday, April 28, Gouldsboro Selectmen are scheduled to hold a public hearing to determine whether to end or extend the freeze. Sources expect the Select Board to continue the ban for another six months.
Planning Board Chairman Ray Jones does not think there is enough time for his board to complete its review, hold a public hearing, further finetune the ordinance and present it for voters’ final say at annual town meeting on Wednesday, June 15.
“There is no way we can jump through all the hoops and take this to town meeting [this year],” Jones said Thursday before the Select Board’s meeting. “I doubt that we will make it to town meeting this year.”
American Aquafarms’ proposed project to raise 66 million Atlantic salmon at two 15-pen sites in Frenchman Bay and process the fish at the dormant Maine Fair Trade plant in Prospect Harbor, shook the Schoodic Peninsula community to take action after the industrial-scale plan was first unveiled in the fall of 2020. Opposition to the Norwegian-backed company’s project steadily mounted and expanded into a movement engaging the seven Frenchman Bay towns, the Downeast region’s lobster fishery, Acadia National Park, the Mount Desert Biological Laboratory, Frenchman Bay Conservancy and other organizations and citizens. Hardly any support has been expressed publicly for the project at the numerous meetings held over the past two years.
As it stands now, American Aquafarms’ Department of Marine Resources (DMR) applications to lease the two Frenchman Bay sites have not been found complete, nor has the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) completed its review or scheduled a public hearing on the company’s completed wastewater discharge applications.
Keith Decker, American Aquafarms’ new CEO who was hired early this year, could not be reached for comment Thursday about the company’s progress in addressing issues keeping its project from advancing in the regulatory process.
Under the draft ordinance submitted Thursday, whether a prospective fish farmer required an aquaculture license would be gauged by their annual catch in pounds and volume of the marine species to be processed in Gouldsboro. Maximum threshold of production would be established and any project – whether involving an aquatic plant or marine animal – exceeding that level would be prohibited. The amount of animal feed and waste generated also would considered. Applicants, whose projected production is below a certain level, would be exempt from a license, but may be required to comply with other regulations.
To apply for an aquaculture license, applicants would have to submit a development plan detailing the type and quantity of aquaculture equipment used in the water or on land. For tending their operations, applicants would have to describe what type of infrastructure – be it a wharf, shed or equipment – would be required to carry out their work.
In addition, license applicants would have to specify how many full-time, part-time and seasonal employees would be hired, and the nature of those jobs, over a five-year period. They would need to demonstrate the potential economic benefits to the town. An Environmental impact statement could be required to mitigate any adverse impacts from their operations.
For in-water operations, not dissimilar to present DMR and DEP lease and wastewater discharge permits, applicants would have to submit extensive information, including wave height, minimum and maximum temperatures and other characteristics of their proposed ocean sites. The applicant’s financial resources to fund the project as well as their staff and contractors’ technical qualifications also would be scrutinized.
In the license application, applicants would have to demonstrate how their operations would not cause traffic and strain the town’s roads, parking areas and other infrastructure. Limits would also be placed on lighting and noise levels. An operation’s wastewater disposal plan and potential use of the town’s water supply would also be examined. An application fee and possibly technical review fees would be levied.
At the April 19 meeting, Pease plans to go through the entire draft document in detail for the Planning Board and any members of the public in attendance in person or via Zoom. The Zoom link for the session will be posted earlier the same day at the town’s website at gouldsborotown.com.
The draft Aquaculture Licensing Ordinance is expected to be posted Friday, April 15, will be posted at gouldsborotown.com.