TREMONT — After several years of negotiating with the town regarding the position of floats, the owners of FW Thurston Co. are submitting two applications for Tier 3 Natural Resources Protection Act permits with the Department of Environmental Protection to add 14 floats in total to their operation in Bernard.
FW Thurston buys and sells lobsters and operates Thurston’s Lobster Pound on the western shore of Bass Harbor, next to the town’s wharf in Bernard.
One application submitted under Woof Wagon LLC is for a marina on the north side of the property that abuts the town wharf. A second application, under Michael and Elizabeth Radcliffe, owners of FW Thurston, is on the south side of the property.
The Harbor Committee and harbormaster discussed this proposed project at a meeting in March and put together a memo detailing their conclusions. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is accepting comments, which need to come from the town’s authoritative body, on these applications until April 29. During the Board of Selectmen meeting on April 5, Harbormaster Justin Seavey brought the memo before the board to discuss the committee’s concerns. Following the discussion, all five members voted in favor of sending the comments on to the DEP.
Derek Lapointe, representing FW Thurston Co., attended the Board of Selectmen meeting to help explain the applications.
Benefits to the project, according to Lapointe, include increased shore access for summer patrons, mooring space for several of the fishermen they work with, easier access to boats for older fishermen and more slip space. Lapointe pointed out restricted access to the town wharf, especially the southern hoist, and the project’s position near the town’s float configuration, which could lead to harbor congestion, as cons to the proposed project.
“It’s a hard job to get in and out of that side of the harbor, even if you have done it your whole life,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Jamie Thurlow, who is also a commercial fisherman, about maneuvering up to the town wharf on the side where these floats are being proposed. “I just want to be sure there’s enough room going back and forth.”
Members of the Harbor Committee expressed concerns about the project increasing congestion in the harbor and displacing moorings that are currently in place. Lapointe said there were two moorings that the project would affect. Seavey noted the committee had come up with a few more than that number.
“The additional shore access will help alleviate the current demand for boat anchorage within the harbor for commercial fishermen, commercial boat service facilities as well as recreational vessels,” according to the application to add six, 8–by–20–foot new floats to the existing restaurant float at Thurston’s Lobster Pound.
“We feel this will probably eliminate some of these boats traveling around the harbor trying to find a spot,” said Lapointe during the meeting.
The second application is a proposal to add eight 8–by–20–foot main floats connected to shore with a wood framed ramp system and an aluminum 4–by–40–foot gangway to the main floats. These will have electricity hookups for boats as well as lights and possibly fresh–water access, according to the application.
“Below the high-water mark, the float access follows the shared littoral line of Woof Wagon LLC and Michael & Elizabeth Radcliffe, the owners of FW Thurston Co. The proposed float system is a supplemental use to the commercial fishing pier and will benefit the fishermen greatly,” according to the application.
“I don’t think it will increase boat traffic,” he told selectmen. “Most will be existing boat users.”
Another concern from the Harbor Committee is the placement of some of the floats on the three–to–one setback line. “Vessels using the floats will be in the dredged area. This area will no longer be able to be used for single–point moorings as originally designed and dredged for,” they expressed in the note to selectmen.
Seavey continued to explain he wasn’t sure the Army Corps of Engineers would allow the permit because use of the dredge area is intended for public use and this application could be considered personal use.
Where two of the town’s floats currently sit, or float, is on property that is technically owned by the state and managed by the Submerged Lands division of the Bureau of Parks and Lands. The town and FW Thurston Co. each hold leases, allowing placement of the floats with Submerged Lands.
In 2018, the town reconfigured two floats to keep their design consistent with the lease. It had been changed previously to provide ease of access for fishermen. If the proposed Thurston’s project is granted, “we’d have to remove both of those floats,” Seavey explained to selectmen, adding that he was unable to get cooperation from the FW Thurston owners the last time it was discussed.
“We were on board with allowing the town to keep it the way it has been,” said Lapointe, adding to change it to the configuration on the lease would be giving up space until the renewal in 2034. “We weren’t prepared to do that.”