GOULDSBORO — After hearing no public opposition, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will decide whether to grant Schoodic Sea Farm a 20-year lease and expand its tiny Mill Pond operation following an April 7 public hearing at the Gouldsboro Recreation Center.
The farm would grow and harvest between 100,000 to 400,000 oysters at any given time of the year in cages on the bottom inside a 2.2-acre area in the secluded salt pond.
At the brief hearing, none of the five members of the public in attendance – two of whom raise oysters nearby in Frenchman Bay – had any objections to Schoodic Sea Farm proprietor Joe Young’s proposed expansion. The plan would expand his operation from the four limited purpose aquaculture permits (LPAs) that he was first granted to cultivate oysters nearly a decade ago in the salt pond accessible by water only at high tide via Long Mill Cove on the southern shore of Gouldsboro Bay.
In the 40-acre waterbody, Young plans to raise oysters from seed in fine-mesh bags and later plant the juvenile shellfish for further grow-out in the pond’s gravelly and soft- and hard-mud bottom in two designated deeper-water areas. Harvesting is strictly by hand with a clam rake or oyster tongs.
Flora Drury is one of two DMR marine scientists who conducted a site visit of Young’s Mill Pond operation and proposed expansion area in October of 2020. At last week’s hearing, Drury noted the proposed lease does affect tidal waterfowl and wading bird habitat in the intertidal zone. She asked Young if he “planned to ground out [his watercraft] on the bottom.”
Young assured Drury that his watercraft, measuring 12 feet or under in length, would not be hauled out on the flats or disturb the shorebird population. He also told Drury his one-man operation would not involve working after hours or disturb the quality of life for the few seasonal residents at Mill Pond.
Nor, Drury concluded in her April 9, 2021, site review report prepared jointly with DMR scientist Cheyenne Adams, did Young’s operation interfere with or diminish the experience of occasional visitors picnicking or camping out on nearby state-owned Dry Island.
Now that the hearing has been held, the DMR will draft a decision sometime in the near future. The lease applicant will have 13 days to review the proposed ruling and file any comments. The proposed decision and applicant’s comments will be sent to the DMR Commissioner Pat Keliher who will review it and issue a final decision. Then the town and any impacted waterfront property owners will be notified of that decision.