2012-09-20 / News

Aquaculture farms concern harbormaster

He says town has not been involved in permit process
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Harbormaster Sam Paterson says the growing number of aquaculture farms being planted in Jamestown waters has him concerned. At the Harbor Commission’s

Sept. 12 meeting, Paterson suggested the harbor board and the Conservation Commission should start to review these projects and make comments before the state issues any permits.

Paterson said aquaculture farms should be registered with the Coast Guard and would fall under the category of private aids to navigation.

“Conservation and harbor should be involved with this process and reviewing it together,” he said. “It’s a growing, growing industry.”

But given the fact that the state issues the aquaculture permits, Commissioner Chris Brown wanted to know what authority the local government would have.

“Do we have a say?” Brown said.

“We do if it interferes with anything we have and any other user group,” Paterson said.

Paterson became aware of the potential conflicts between aquaculture farms and other uses recently when he accompanied Dave Beutel, the aquaculture coordinator for the state Coastal Resources Management Council, on an inspection of a proposed site over in Cranston Cove.

There are a lot of questions, said Paterson, including whether the site is feasible for an aquaculture farm. In this particular case, the applicant is asking permission to put the farm along the shore of a town-owned beach.

Paterson said he also looked at other aquaculture farms sites, including one south of the Jamestown Bridge, which started up this spring. South of that site, another aquaculture farm had been in operation some five to 10 years. According to Paterson, that person recently lost the permit, but other applicants are interested in the location. In addition, Jamestowner Phil Larson has received a permit through Roger Williams College to start an aquaculture farm at the end of Maple Avenue. He also has another pending application.

In the commission’s correspondence, the CRMC notified town officials on Aug. 28 about a new application for an aquaculture farm at Head’s Beach. In the letter, the agency asked for comments and advised that any objections would have to follow CRMC guidelines and be submitted within 30 days.

“Do you think this application is going to cause problems?” asked Harbor Commission Chairman Michael de Angeli.

Paterson said he didn’t this so. However, the CRMC was not going to grant a permit because the applicant had failed to provide suffi cient information. Specifically, the drawings did not match up with the request.

“He’s asking for 1,000 feet, but he’s only showing 300 feet,” said Paterson, who added that the drawings should have been made to scale. de Angeli scanned the drawings and suggested the commissioners should notify the Head’s Beach residents.

“We had a lot of trouble when we wanted to make it a mooring area,” he said, recalling some residents who had objected and did not want boaters coming to their neighborhood beach. “We should notify them, so they’re not blindsided by it. If we don’t act by Sept. 29, they’ll brand this thing.”

In fact, Paterson said, the farm would be located in front of the home of the woman who objected to the new mooring field at Head’s Beach. “I don’t know if she’s been notified yet.”

Legally, the CRMC does not have to notify holders of riparian rights, Patersons aid. He added, “Most of the projects are not in front of anyone’s riparian rights.”

“Riparians only have the right to a mooring, but that’s a big right,” said de Angeli.

Paterson added the town also had some interest at stake because the farm would be near an area where people launch boats and where the town maintains boat racks.

“We should be on top of it. It may interfere with our mooring fields.”

Nonetheless, Commissioner Larry Eichler said the panel should respond in writing and reserve its right to object.

“We should send a letter and say we need more information. The information provided is incomplete, and we’re not waiving our rights to object until we have received a complete package.”

Since the CRMC addressed the letter to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, de Angeli said the plan would be to email Keiser and ask him to respond to the CRMC.

In other business, the Harbor Commission decided to consult with the Conservation Commission about installing a floating dock by the Fort Getty boat ramp. The conservation commissioners have previously gone on the record to object to the floating dock because it would be going into environmentally sensitive waters, but Harbor Commissioner Patrick Bolger said the CRMC has indicated it would be OK to install the new dock.

Town Councilor Bob Bowen, liaison to the Harbor Commission, said there might be room for a compromise if the harbor panel could show the type of floating dock would not pose a problem. de Angeli suggested the harbor commissioners should draw up some sketches and make a formal proposal to conservation board.

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