MOUNT DESERT — Are the four temporary moorings currently in South Shore Cove so objectionable that they should not be there permanently?
The Northeast Harbor Fleet, which placed the moorings, says they’re fine and that they’re needed “to quell its ever-expanding mooring waitlist,” which now stands at 38.
But the South Shore Cove Association and its 10 members who live on the cove argue that the moorings are an eyesore, a hazard to boating and a threat to eelgrass and marine life.
The Mount Desert Harbor Committee held a three-hour public hearing on the matter Sept. 13. Committee members will deliberate and perhaps take a vote at a meeting they have scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27.
South Shore Cove is between Gilpatrick Ledge and Sargent Head.
In June 2021, Harbormaster John Lemoine authorized the Fleet to place the four moorings in the cove on a temporary basis. In June 2022, he granted approval for the moorings to be in the cove permanently.
The executive officers of the Fleet have submitted a statement urging the Harbor Committee to affirm the harbormaster’s decision. They said the moorings were used safely throughout the summer of 2021.
“They were well anchored and did not impede safe navigation…There were no complaints brought to the attention of the officers or the employees of the Fleet.
“The Fleet Green Team, a group of member volunteers who promote…the sustainable use of the waters and parks, believes the moorings do not affect the approximately dozen or so lobster traps in the cove. The Green Team believes the existing moorings create a minimal environmental impact on the biodiversity in the area…”
In December 2021, the Fleet asked permission to place six additional moorings in the cove and to make the four existing moorings permanent. Upon reviewing the request at its January 2022 meeting, the Harbor Committee expressed concern that the nearby Gilpatrick Cove mooring field was too spread out and asked the Fleet to devise a plan to alleviate that concern.
In their recent filing with the Harbor Committee, the executive officers of the Fleet said that at the committee’s February 2022 meeting, the Fleet “agreed to relocate 15 moorings from the outer edge of Gilpatrick Cove to the area east of the Ledge [South Shore Cove].We also requested an additional 15 moorings in that area…”
The Fleet officers said that, in the face of opposition to that proposal from South Shore Cove residents, they withdrew the proposal in March.
The South Shore Cove Association responded through the law firm Rudman Winchell that the Fleet’s filing “makes clear that both the Fleet and the Association understand that these four moorings on appeal are the scouting party for a broader plan to locate dozens of moorings throughout the entirety of South Shore Cove, all for the benefit of a membership-based yacht club. Therefore, it is critical that (the Harbor Committee) consider the impacts of placing an entire field of moorings throughout the cove, not just the four moorings on appeal.”
The cove association described the Fleet’s filing as mostly “self-serving statements and non-binding promises and platitudes to refute the Association’s compelling concerns about safety, environmental impacts and interference with existing uses.”
Several members of the South Shore Cove Association have written letters to the Harbor Committee expressing opposition to making the four moorings in the cove permanent.
“The Cove is frequented by seals, gulls and loons, has vast amounts of eel grass beds, which are instrumental to tidal protection and animal habitats,” wrote South Shore Road resident Billy Peelle III.
“It is still a vital place for lobsterman to fish. This would all go away with the addition of more moorings, and the four moorings today already hinder the wildlife and local fishermen.
“There are few coves on the whole island that have not been affected by moorings and being made into harbors. So, to preserve one of the last open coves would seem to be essential to preserving what we all love and want to protect.”