Separate wharf fees are a no-go

TREMONT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed that the town cannot have different fees for residents and nonresidents using the Bernard Wharf.

Harbormaster Justin Seavey reported the results of his meeting with Jay Clement of the Army Corps to the Harbor Committee at their Feb. 23 meeting.

The town’s wharf and facilities ordinance has for a number of years set separate fees for residents and nonresidents using the wharf. In January, town attorney James Collier sent a draft of a newly proposed version of the ordinance to Clement for his comments. The new version continued the two-tiered fee system.

In his reply, Clement said regulations surrounding the federal dredging of Bass Harbor prohibit this approach. A local cooperation agreement between the town and the Army Corps states that the “landing,” which Clement interprets as the Bernard Wharf, “must be kept open to all on an equal basis.”

Clement did suggest that the town might be able to designate another location as the “landing,” thereby freeing the restriction on the Bernard Wharf. That was the primary purpose of Seavey’s meeting with Clement. However, no suitable location could be found.

“Basically, it’s not going to work the way it’s set up,” Seavey told the committee. “If we had another landing or wharf, it would be fine.”

The determination has stalled plans for the new ordinance to go before voters at the May town meeting and reduces revenue from wharf use permits.

Under the ordinance, wharf use permits are set by the length of the boat. A per-foot fee, now $12.50 for vessels up to 50 feet in length and $25 per foot for those greater than 50 feet, is charged for resident vessels. Nonresident vessels pay double the amount paid by the owners of resident vessels.

There are about 13 nonresidents using the wharf. Seavey has estimated there would be a $5,000 drop in fees collected. Committee member Scott Harper said at the meeting that he estimates that raising the per-foot charge by $2 for all would make up for the lost revenue.

Seavey reported that Clement also told him that the channel in Bass Harbor needed to be better marked. Other than that, he had no issues.

“Overall, he had no complaints about how we’re running the harbor,” Seavey said.



Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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