AUGUSTA—After several hours of testimony on April 13 both for and against a bill that would limit the size of aquaculture leases and place a more stringent framework around the leasing process, the statehouse committee tasked with overseeing the bill took only a few minutes on April 20 to call for it not to pass.
The bill, LD1146, seeks to examine the aquaculture leasing process, require leases to revert to the state after their expiration and have lease transfers reviewed for compliance. It would also strip away Natural Resources Protection Act and site development exemptions for any leases larger than five acres, limit leases to 50 acres and restrict owners from holding more than 10 leases or a total of more than 100 acres.
The bill was seemingly filed in response to American Aquafarms’ controversial proposal for a salmon farm off Gouldsboro, but the more than five hours of testimony was filled with vehement opposition from aquaculturists who warned that it could end up crippling the industry and harming many of the smaller farms in the state.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Robert Alley (D-Beals) who argued that it was time to take a look at the state’s rules around aquaculture in order to reduce conflicts between sea farmers and lobstermen.
But on Tuesday, the Committee on Marine Resources spoke on it briefly and Alley seemed to know the writing was on the wall — even seconding the motion calling for it to “ought not to pass.”
The committee ended up voting 12-0 to not recommend the bill’s passage.
When a committee unanimously votes “ought not to pass,” no further action on the bill may be taken by the state Legislature unless a joint order recalling the bill is approved by two-thirds of the members of both houses voting in favor of the recall.