SURRY — Fall is here, but if the past is any predictor of the future, the atmosphere around placid Morgan Bay is likely to be as hot as the middle of July by the time Halloween rolls around.
The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is soliciting public comment on an application by Hancock shellfish farmer Joe Porada for a four-acre experimental lease to raise quahogs and oysters near the head of Morgan Bay.
Porada first floated the idea of a shellfish aquaculture lease in the narrow waterway at the head of Blue Hill Bay more than 18 months ago. In June last year, a DMR-sponsored scoping session drew a large crowd to a classroom in the Surry elementary school that voiced an almost entirely negative response to the plan.
The reactions to Porada’s proposal at a second scoping session held in February in the school gym was even less favorable. Several landowners voiced concerns that the proposed shellfish farm would despoil the pristine environment of Morgan Bay and damage the value of property along the bay’s shore.
Many of those same landowners had gathered for an informal meeting last December to consider a concerted strategy for blocking Porada’s plans.
In August, Porada finally filed a formal application for a three-year, four-acre experimental lease aimed at determining whether Morgan Bay is a suitable environment for growing quahogs or oysters. His plan calls for testing different rearing techniques on the site, including bottom culture, floating cages and suspended mesh bags, testing various anti-predation methods and exploring how differences in water temperature affect the growth rate of the shellfish.