By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday, 12/4 the Fairhaven Selectboard met with the Director of Planning and Economic Development, Bill Roth about the continuation of the Hedge Street and Oxford Terrace parking lot project.
Mr. Roth explained that it was the second portion of the project. The 2016 phase was just recently completed which was a new parking lot at the Oxford Terrace with new pathways and LED lighting. Mr. Roth said they recently held a ribbon cutting and the housing authority was very happy with the parking lot.
“It was a success,” Mr. Roth said.
Mr. Roth explained that the second part of the project will be the rebuilding of the headwall near the Acushnet harbor, as well as the reconstructing of the roads from River to Cherry Street and from Cherry Street to Main Street.
Mr. Roth said that the sewers will The design plan for the project is essentially completed and the estimated cost of the project is $960,000, which Mr. Roth said exceeds the amount of funds the town can apply for. The limit is $800,000.
Mr. Roth said the plan is to do the project in phases, with phase one being the work on the headwall and reconstruction up to Cherry Street because it needs the most extensive work, including sewer, drainage, new sidewalks, and landscaping.
The next step will be meeting with the Conservation Commission to approve the permits. Then Mr. Roth can apply for the road construction.
He explained that applications for the project are due at the beginning of March and he would like to have four public hearings with the Selectboard to discuss the plans and financials before then.
Selectboard member Daniel Freitas agreed that it is a much needed project and that Hedge Street has needed work for a long time.
The board agreed and Town Administrator Mark Rees will be working with Mr. Roth to schedule public hearings on the project in the upcoming meetings.
In another matter, the board met with Richard “Richie” Canastra and New Bedford attorney Andrew Saunders about the decision by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’ (NOAA) to prohibit fishing by all Sector 9 boats, causing the loss of 320 fishing related jobs.
Sector 9 is the commercial fishing entity operated by Carlos Rafael, who has been found guilty by the Federal government for a long list of fishing related crimes. Sectors generally include a group of boat owners, but because of Mr. Rafael’s extensive boat and permit holdings, he was the only active member of Sector 9.
Mr. Saunders explained that the decision to close Sector 9 was a direct result of the crimes committed by Mr. Rafael.
Mr. Rafael also controlled the fish house, which made it easy for him to manipulate the numbers. He mis-labeled species to circumvent quota rules, and he kept some sales off the books, according to the federal charges. Mr. Rafael was sentenced to 46 months in a federal prison after pleading guilty to the charges in September of this year.
Sector 9 boats have been banned from fishing since 11/20, which means that all the captains and crew members of all the boats have not been working.
“It has a huge ripple effect,” said Mr. Saunders in a follow-up phone interview, noting that if the boats are not working, then the painters and fuelers and ice houses are also not supplying the boats.
Mr. Saunders and Mr. Canastra said they hoped the Selectboard would write comments or letters on behalf of the Sector 9 workers to ask NOAA to reverse its decision and reopen with someone else in charge.
Mr. Saunders said that hundreds of fishermen should not be punished for one man’s crime.
He also blamed politics and an old vendetta for the closing, noting that the NOAA Regional Administrator, John Bullard, is a former mayor of New Bedford and has publicly clashed with Mr. Rafael in the past. It was Mr. Bullard’s decision to close Sector 9.
Mr. Saunders said that Mr. Bullard approved all 19 sectors for the next two years and provisionally approved Sector 9 when Mr. Rafael had already pleaded guilty. Therefore the news of Mr. Bullard shutting down Sector 9 was surprising.
Mr. Saunders said that with 22 fishing vessels shut down and hundreds of people laid off, it is going to cause economic issues all over the region, especially in Fairhaven and New Bedford where the fishing industry is so essential.
“I’ll help Mr. Rees write the comments,” offered Mr. Saunders.
“We should get involved in this,” agreed Mr. Freitas. “This is a punishment to everyone, not just Rafael.”
Mr. Freitas said the closing of Sector 9 could cause many economic issues and cause Fairhaven businesses to suffer.
Board member Charles Murphy agreed and voiced his support of the Sector 9 workers. The board voted unanimously to submit the comments.
Members of the public are also invited to comment via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (https://www. regulations.gov/) before 12/20/17, or by mail to John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, “Comments on the Interim Final Rule to Withdraw Approval of NEFS 9.”
Visit https://www.greateratlantic. fisheries.noaa.gov/mediacenter/ 2017/11/20_noaa_fisheries_withdraws _the_northeast_fishery_sector_ix_ operations_plan.html
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News at: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Y6V5ARRYH689G
Click here to download the entire 12/7/17 issue: 12-07-17 BenoitSquareLights