Opponents of proposed Shore’s oyster farm speak out
Tony Pinheiro, a Beacon Avenue resident who has called Jamestown his home for more than 20 years, is proposing to build the farm in an area just north of the beach and boat launch. He needs the approval of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council in order to construct and maintain the farm. Pinheiro says he reduced the farm’s size to 10,000 square feet after the coastal council told him the original 2-acre proposal conflicted with eelgrass beds.
The concerns over the eelgrass came from Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, who sent a letter dated May 30 to Dave Beutel, state aquaculture coordinator. Keiser said the eelgrass was a vital habitat for a wide range of fish and wildlife.
The letter from the town also noted the proximity of the proposed farm to the shore, “just 30 feet off of Head’s Beach.” It said the applicant had not addressed the impact the farm will have on a public mooring field or recreational activities at Head’s Beach.
Pinheiro had asserted in his application, “We have accessed the site countless numbers of times for over 21 years and it is not a spot known for any type of fishing, shellfishing, swimming or boating activities. I live here. I watch this area. I’m here just about every day. My son does commercial fishing and I’m in and out of here every day. So I can see what activity goes on here.”
Kristen Zharvigo, a Seaside Drive resident whose home overlooks the proposed site, says after reading Pinheiro’s claim, she felt compelled to step forward. Zharvigo has been taking photos this summer of clammers, kayakers and swimmers in the waters where the proposed farm would be located.
“Frankly, when I saw in his application he said he’s been here 21 years and he’s never seen anybody recreate, I said, ‘Wait a minute, hang on a second.’ I sit here every day and I see what people are doing. They swim and they kayak. They fish.”
The Jamestown Shores Association is also fighting the proposal. In a letter dated May 27 from co-chairwoman Ann Gagnon to the coastal council, “The area proposed for the oyster farm is used for swimming, boating, boat moorings, fishing, shellfishing, lobster trapping and other seaside activities. We feel the proposed oyster farm will significantly and negatively impact existing public access to the shores area and the quality of life to all the residents of Jamestown.”
It was Harbormaster Sam Paterson who brought Pinheiro’s application to the attention of the neighborhood association. Paterson says he encourages aquaculture, but wants to see the state closely scrutinize the potential impact on all user groups.
“It’s not only the shore-side people,” he said. “It’s other user groups like the shellfish association, the lobster people, the fishing people. Everything is taken into consideration. We have a mooring field over there.”
Paterson said he plans to overlay the mooring field with the proposed farm and see if it conflicts.
Pinheiro maintains his proposed oyster farm is about 100 feet from any of the boats moored there.
Ben Cerilli, a Seaside Drive resident who lives north of the proposed farm, says he supports Pinheiro’s plan.
“I don’t think it affects the moorings,” said Cerilli. “The beach is clearly defined and it’s nowhere near the beach. In fact, it’s not a good place to swim because of the eelgrass, and of course it’s very rocky in that area.
Cerilli felt Pinheiro’s proposal was a good idea because it would provide “local food for local people.”
Pinheiro’s application defines his oyster farm as having a growout system. There will be nine total trawls of wire mesh cages the size of small lobster traps, as well as some lower profile traps set on the bottom and attached by sinking line.
Pinheiro estimates that at most, there would be 20 buoys in the water. He expects that he will check on the holding cages by boat or by wading to them about once a week. As the oysters grow, Pineiro explained, so will the activity at the farm.
Seaside Drive resident Charlotte Zarlengo owns property directly abutting the proposed oyster farm. As an abutter, she recently received a courtesy letter from the town informing her of the change in Pinheiro’s plan. The town also sent her aerial maps showing both the original and current proposal.
She is opposed to the application.
“Whoever heard of having a business on a public beach?” she asked. “It just doesn’t make sense, especially the only beach in the Jamestown Shores area. So to propose running a business here, and using access through the boat launch, and being able to work the lines from the shore, is just inappropriate.”
Given the reduction in size of his proposal, Pinheiro says his venture could hardly be termed a “business.”
“It’s a small area,” he said. “Right now it’s a hobby more than a business. I can’t afford to live off of that. I’m working and I’ll be doing that. It’s a hobby for me and if I make some money doing it, I’ll be happy.”
Both the town and the Jamestown Shores Association have requested a public hearing on Pinheiro’s application. According to town officials, the coastal council is completing surveys of eelgrass and shellfishing at the proposed site of the oyster farm.
Once the state completes its reports and assessment, the Town Council is expected to mull the application and weigh in. A public hearing before the CRMC is anticipated this fall, no earlier than late September.