Salt Pond oyster farm lease renewed; New lease is pending

BLUE HILL — Early this month, the Department of Marine Resources approved the request of Tightrope Seafarms LLC for a 20-year renewal of its lease to grow oysters and other shellfish on 17.45 acres off the southern shore of Salt Pond.

A 10-year lease was originally granted to Brooklin resident Paul Brayton in 1999, acquired ultimately by Tightrope in 2001 and renewed for 10 years in 2009.

Tightrope has two corporate owners — Blue Hill Bay Mussels LLC and Aqua Farms LLC. Blue Hill Bay Mussels is owned by Hancock shellfish farmer Evan Young, who also holds a 2.32-acre shellfish lease in his own name in the Salt Pond.

There were no objections and no request for a hearing by DMR after notice of the renewal application was published in August.

In a decision signed Nov. 4, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher found that the application met all the legal criteria for renewal.

That renewal is subject to conditions that the lease site be marked as required by DMR and Coast Guard regulations and that Tightrope continues to comply with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions on farm operations in the vicinity of a bald eagle nest. Eagles were removed from the state endangered and threatened species list in 2009.

Still pending is a request by Tightrope for a 20-year lease to grow oysters on 7.25 acres in the Salt Pond. The lease area would include two tracts, one south of Carlton Island the other southeast of the island, and would allow for oysters to be grown on the bottom of the pond without the use of any floating or suspended gear.

According to the application, oysters would be harvested primarily by divers, hand tools or a small dredge working three to five hours per day, up to six days per week throughout the year.

Initially, the company plans to seed the lease site with about 300,000 tiny oysters. Ultimately, Tightrope plans to grow 1 million oysters to market size annually.

The company initially filed its lease application with DMR at the end of March. It was deemed complete early in September. The next step in the process calls for a site visit, including a divers’ survey, and preparation of a site review by DMR scientists. After the site review is complete and a site report is published, DMR will schedule a public hearing on the application.

No hearing is likely before the spring of 2020.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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