TRENTON — A shellfish harvester and oyster farmer with a history of stirring up controversy has filed a draft application with the Department of Marine Resources for a 20-year, five-acre lease to grow oysters and clams just below the intertidal zone of Goose Cove.
Last April, DMR accepted a draft application from Joe Porada and Brian Harvey for a lease covering 12 acres located “along mean low tide line” in the cove where Porada has operated two small “experimental” lease sites used for “scientific and commercial grow-out experiments” raising oysters and hard clams.
Last week, DMR gave notice that Porada and Harvey had scheduled a pre-application scoping session for a proposed five-acre lease in Goose Cove. The meeting, required before DMR may begin consideration of the application, is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Trenton town office.
Based on the draft application on file, the proposed lease would encompass a more or less rectangular area 1,200 feet long and 400 feet wide running more or less east to west direction just below the low tide line. The area is well inshore of the two 25-acre oyster lease sites operated by Acadia Sea Farms and Warren Pettegrow, scheduled to expire at the end of next May.
With the scoping session scheduled for an area less than half of what is shown on the filed draft, those dimensions would change significantly.
Porada was the central figure in a long-running battle to establish an experimental lease to grow oysters using floating cages and plastic oyster bags in the waters of upper Morgan Bay in Surry.
Porada first applied to DMR for the lease in February 2011. In the spring of 2013, the department held three days of public hearings on the application, but didn’t issue a decision granting the lease until May 2015, nearly two years after the hearing ended.
Neighbors opposed to the project, mostly owners of shorefront property on Morgan Bay, appealed to the Superior Court which, in September 2016, affirmed the DMR decision but ordered the department to cut the size of the lease from four acres to just two.
The landowners appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and, in July 2017, the court dismissed the appeal as premature because the exact location of the two-acre lease site had yet to be determined and because they told the court they would likely appeal again, wherever the two acres were located.
That left Porada with the right to keep his gear in the water, DMR with a decision to make and the angry landowners with at least one more round to fight. But the fight was over.
“I haven’t been doing anything” on the Morgan Bay site, Porada said last week. “I actually dropped the lease last year.”
According to Porada, who digs wild softshell and hardshell clams in addition to farming oysters and who chairs the seven-town Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Conservation organization, shellfish harvesting has been so good this year that he hasn’t had any time to devote to aquaculture.
Porada said that, for knowledgeable diggers, clams have been plentiful and that prices have been as high as $3.80 per pound for hardshells and $3.20 per pound for steamers. If the tides, and the clams, cooperate, he said, it’s possible to harvest five to seven bushels — perhaps 250 to 300 pounds a day.
While Porada said he was “pretty much out of active aquaculture” for now, he intends to keep his hand in and, with Harvey, keep a shellfish lease active because it’s hard to know where, when, how good or how long the wild harvest might continue.