TRENTON — The Hancock County Commissioners are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the permit it issued for a 50-acre oyster farm in Goose Cove and to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reassess the potential hazard to aircraft posed by birds that might be attracted to the oyster cages.
The commissioners voted 3-0 to take that action at their Nov. 6 meeting. They asked Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport Manager Brad Madeira to draft a letter to the Army Corps requesting the permit suspension.
Madeira said Monday that the letter is a “collective effort” on the part of the commissioners and the towns of Trenton and Mount Desert, which are officially opposed to the oyster farm. He said the letter will be made public once it has been signed by officials of all three governmental entities.
The proposed oyster farm is in the flight path of planes taking off and landing at the airport.
Trenton resident Warren Pettegrow has been granted a lease by the Maine Department of Marine Resources for two 25-acre tracts in Goose Cove for his Acadia Sea Farms oyster growing operation. Pettegrow said in his lease application that he planned to raise as many as 10 million oysters in about 5,000 cages.
In March of this year, the Army Corps, following consultation with the FAA, issued a permit for the oyster farm.
In a meeting in Bangor two weeks ago, officials of the FAA and Army Corps, along with staff members of Maine’s congressional delegation, discussed the proposed oyster farm with representatives of Hancock County, Trenton and Mount Desert. Following that meeting, Madeira, the airport manager, sent a memo to FAA officials citing what he said was a lack of clarity in conditions of the permit having to do with the cleaning of the oyster cages.
Based on what he termed “an obvious display of confusion” by the federal officials at the meeting, Madeira wrote, “I believe that it is the FAA’s duty and responsibility to contact the [Army Corps] to request that they suspend their permit.”
Madeira added that more time is needed to give the FAA’s wildlife biologist an opportunity “to reevaluate the cage cleaning process in order to properly assess whether this hazard can be mitigated.”
But he made clear that he does not believe there is a way to guarantee that the oyster farm would not attract birds and pose a hazard to aviation.
“There is simply no reason to allow this activity, given the potential safety concerns,” he wrote.
The Trenton Board of Selectmen voted several years ago to oppose the oyster farm. In August, the Hancock County Commissioners did the same. The Mount Desert Board of Selectmen followed suit in September. More than a few of that town’s seasonal residents have private planes that fly into and out of the airport in Trenton.