2017-08-24 / News

Council backs residents opposed to state aquaculture application

BY TIM RIEL

The town councilors are backing Westwind Drive residents by formally objecting to the modification of an existing aquaculture farm at Dutch Harbor.

The 2-acre site is a 15-year lease owned by Beacon Avenue residents Antonio and Joseph Pinheiro. The state Coastal Resources Management Council already approved 710 cages on the farm, but only 115 of them are allowed to float. The Pinheiros’ application asks the state to allow the remaining 595 cages to use floating gear.

The councilors voted 3-1 to submit a written objection before the Aug. 29 deadline. Councilwoman Mary Meagher voted against the measure because the Pinheiros operate a permitted site, not a new farm. Mike White was absent.

According to environmental lawyer Robin Main, of Westwind Drive, Dutch Harbor is “by far” the most densely populated site for oyster farming. Her team of objectors wants the state to study the impact on real estate values, water quality and boating before the coastal council agrees to modify or approve any applications for Dutch Harbor. Councilman Gene Mihaly supported this idea.

According to Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero, the coastal council lists specific reasons for objecting to aquaculture applications. Among them is detriment to the scenic vista and a hindrance to recreation boating, both of which Mihaly said are pertinent to this case. The town’s conservation board has continually objected to floating cages ruining the harbor’s historic vista while homeowners in the area have forfeited their moorings because of navigational challenges.

Town Administrator Andy Nota said the objection will trigger a public hearing, which isn’t expected until mid-fall. In the meantime, the councilors agreed to determine the scope of their objection.

Nota previously attended a public hearing last fall on behalf of the Westwind Drive residents to object to a kelp farm. Although the application was approved, another site on the west side of Dutch Island was tabled because of the objections. Nota, however, said they may not be as influential this time because Jamestown resident Anne Livingston no longer chairs the coastal council. At that meeting, Nota said, Livingston allowed her neighbors to discuss problems not directly related to the application.

“She granted us the opportunity to get on the record,” Nota said. “That may not be the case this time.”

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