It is obvious that the water quality of Frenchman Bay is of critical importance to all living species in and around its boundaries—marine life, terrestrial wildlife, residents, visitors and businesses alike.
To that end, the state of Maine has established standards and limits that describe when water quality has been compromised. All aquaculture lease applications must describe in detail if discharges are expected to impact water quality along certain dimensions established by the state.
Not all leases are created equal relative to their impact on water quality. In particular, the American Aquafarms application makes it clear that water quality will suffer during its operation. They do note, however, that in their opinion, the degradation of quality is not sufficient to exceed the maximum levels established by the state.
Given that all the discharge data in this application are estimated, not actual, and estimated in an ideal environment, not by actual field studies on an operation of such massive scale, how certain can the state be that quality will not be degraded more than American Aquafarms estimates? It is possible that the actual degradation from this applicant could even exceed the maximum limits established by the state. The risk of error could be significant, resulting in irreversible harm.
Given that the state believes the Frenchman Bay can absorb only so much degradation without serious systemic consequences, is the massive American Aquafarms proposal the best way to use so much of that remaining margin? Or could that remaining margin better support many less harmful applications?
Further, should Mainers be given preference when limited Maine resources are at stake? Should tax credits be reserved for those projects that will not cause the level of harm that the American Aquafarms is proposing? And finally, will the few jobs created by the American Aquafarms proposal really be a fair exchange for permanently degraded water quality?