BAR HARBOR — As a controversial proposed salmon farm goes through the state lease process, Bar Harbor will likely be the first in line to ask for “intervenor status.”
The Town Council voted unanimously last week to apply to be an intervenor with the state Department of Marine Resources (DMR) on the American Aquafarms salmon farm project, which is proposed to be in the waters of Frenchman Bay off Bar Harbor, though it is technically in the jurisdiction of Gouldsboro.
The Norwegian-backed company has applied to grow salmon at two 60-acre, 15-pen sites northwest of Long Porcupine Island and northeast of Bald Rock Ledge in Frenchman Bay, sparking concerns among local conservationists and fishermen.
If the town is granted intervenor status, it would be allowed to provide testimony at a public hearing on the lease. In some cases, intervenors may also comment on draft decisions.
No other entity has applied for intervenor status yet, said Jeff Nichols, a spokesman for DMR.
The council’s decision to pursue intervenor status took only a few minutes with little discussion. The council had previously sat down with James Hanscom, a Bar Harbor lobsterman and member of the Lobster Zone B Council, and heard his concerns about the project. Before last week’s meeting, Hanscom delivered a statement of opposition on the project to council member Valerie Peacock.
In the statement, 21 Bar Harbor fishermen said they were against the project because it could result in the loss of prime fishing ground, increased pressure on the adjacent fishing grounds, potential loss of gear from service vessels, navigational conflicts, potential water pollution, disturbance to the ocean bottom and a reduced chance that historical fisheries come back to the area.
“This is not the place for that,” Hanscom said in an interview. “Frenchman’s Bay was never meant to be industrialized on that type of scale.”
Several bills have tried to make it harder for the project to get through the lease process, but they have been defeated after vehement pushback from the aquaculture industry, who said the measures would cripple smaller and medium sized operations as well.
Hanscom was working on getting the rest of the town’s fishing fleet to sign on and was also trying to garner support from communities across the bay.
The lobsterman worried that, if approved, American Aquafarms would also hurt the environment, tourism and tarnish the island’s famous views.
“It just doesn’t fit,” Hanscom said. “It doesn’t belong here.”
A scoping session on the project has been scheduled for June 23, but a public hearing has not been set.