Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
Three applicants for aquaculture licenses went before the Fairhaven Select Board on August 23, prompting nearly a dozen residents to attend the public hearing to ask questions and voice their concerns.
The Northeast Maritime Institute (NMI) is seeking a two-acre area near Fish Island close to West Island Marina to propagate oysters as part of a new aquaculture associate’s degree program. Darryl Klinka and Dennis Leahey each hope to establish their own private two-acre quahog farms in the waters off their oceanfront properties south of the Seaview Avenue boat ramp.
All three sites are within the zone the Town has designated for aquaculture, with several other existing aquaculture farms owned by Matthew Loo, Larry Fowler, John Mills, and Blue Stream Aquaculture (formerly Taylor Seafood).
On behalf of NMI, Morgan Dawicki said the institute has offered to assist the Town in its shellfish propagation efforts, partnering with the Town for grants, for example.
“We want to be a good neighbor and provide as much as we can and make a positive impact,” said Mr. Dawicki. NMI plans to start with oysters only and possibly later include quahogs and bay scallops using a combination of floating and sunken cages.
According to Harbormaster Timothy Cox, Mr. Klinka’s and Mr. Leahey’s proposed locations are rocky, shallow, and mostly unnavigable for boats. However, the sunken cages would still allow kayaks and jet skis to float about the site unencumbered. In addition, Mr. Leahey commented that he rarely sees any boat traffic during his daily swims.
Marine Resources Committee Chair Mike McNamara spoke in favor of all three applications, saying that the MRC has already given its nod for the Select Board’s preliminary approval. This approval allows the applications to advance through the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) process, followed by the review and approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Cox said the Select Board would have the final say on issuing the applicants their three-year leases, which would come under review before leasing them another three years at $200 per year per acre.
One resident complained about a history of aquaculture equipment debris floating ashore, which Mr. Cox said was an issue when Taylor Seafood still leased the Blue Stream site but has ceased since Blue Stream took ownership. In the future, Mr. Cox noted all aquaculture cages would be issued a number to identify the owner easily.
Another resident wondered about the waterfowl and whether the wildlife would be affected by the equipment. According to Mr. Cox, DMF will survey each proposed site for the presence of eelgrass and the aquaculture’s impact on local wildlife.
“If there was an issue of anything in the area, they (DMF) take that all into consideration,” said Mr. Cox. He later added, “If there’s anything growing there (eelgrass), then that’s going to be a big ‘no’ from DMF.”
Aquaculture farmers are required to obtain insurance and issue the Town a bond for surety. The state and the federal approval process is thorough and lengthy, said Mr. Cox, taking approximately a year to complete.
“You still have the final say when it comes down to the lease, the final lease,” Mr. Cox told the board. “If there’s an issue between now and then, you could always pull back and not sign the lease.”
Select Board member Keith Silvia recommended approval that night.
“We should move ahead; [the process] takes time. We still could pull the plug at the end if there’s something that doesn’t look right,” Mr. Silvia stated.
Select Board Chair Bob Espindola and Select Board member Stasia Powers agreed, and the board approved all three applications.
In other business, Mr. Espindola and Ms. Powers voted to approve the latest draft of the town administrator position statement with the stipulation that it includes a number of clerical edits (updating ‘Board of Selectmen’ to ‘Select Board,’ for example) and one additional recommendation from each board member.
Ms. Powers wanted to include a statement about the Fairhaven School Department’s relationship with Acushnet, and Mr. Espindola wanted to have a statement about ongoing federal grant activity, most notably, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
The board will receive an email from the Town’s hiring consultant, the Collins Center, with the final draft within the upcoming days. The position is slated for advertisement by Labor Day.
Also during the meeting, in response to a letter from Health Agent David Flaherty, the board has instituted a mask mandate for all employees and visitors to all municipal buildings beginning Wednesday morning, August 25. Mr. Flaherty did not emphasize an immediate mask mandate; however, given the rise in the COVID-19 test positivity rate in Fairhaven (above 5%) and because the board would not be meeting until September 13, the board chose not to wait on taking action.
All three Select Board members expressed support for masks in municipal buildings, with Ms. Powers saying, “I don’t see [wearing a mask] as a hassle; I think it’s important that we protect each other.”
During a meet and greet with Precinct 6, two residents of Bridge Street expressed concern about an increase in vehicles speeding between Mill Road and New Boston Road. The board was sympathetic and urged them to contact the Police Department with their request for additional speed limit signs and “more controls” to mitigate the danger.
The Town is reporting no significant damages due to Hurricane Henri that skirted the South Coast on Sunday, 8/22.
Click here to download the entire 8/26/21 issue: 08-26-21 Henri
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