Oyster lease on tap

TRENTON Shellfish farmer Joe Porada has begun the process required to apply for a lease to grow oysters, clams and mussels on an 18-acre site in Goose Cove.

Late last month, the Department of Marine Resources announced that Porada had scheduled a Nov. 20 scoping session in the Trenton town office to begin a discussion of his plans. The session is scheduled for 6 p.m.

A scoping session is the most preliminary step on the regulatory road that may lead to approval of an aquaculture lease by the DMR. The sessions are organized by a prospective lease applicant and scheduled before any lease application is filed. Their purpose, according to the department, is to “familiarize the general public with the proposal” and to question the applicant about it, and to provide the applicant and DMR with local knowledge about the site or which might be useful to the department during a site visit after an application has been filed.

Although someone from DMR acts as a facilitator during the scoping session, it is not a public hearing and there is no evidence taken under oath.

Porada is no stranger to residents of Trenton.

According to DMR records, he currently holds three contiguous “experimental” shellfish leases in Goose Cove that allow him to grow quahogs (hard-shell clams) and oysters.

Each lease covers an area of 1.99 acres, was originally granted in May 2008 and expired in April 2011. Renewal of each of those leases is described as “pending” on the DMR website.

In 2011, Porada filed an application to add the use of suspended culture to grow hard clams to the westernmost of his two-acre tracts in Goose Cove. According to his application, the only “suspended” gear would be 14-foot-by 20-foot mesh predator nets anchored about 5 inches above the sea bottom on half of the plots where he had shellfish planted. He is already using similar nets on his other two tracts.

DMR biologists visited the site about 18 months after the application was accepted and reported that the nets would have “little additional impact” on the site. So far, the department’s website does not indicate that DMR has taken any action on that application.

Two years ago, Porada applied for a four-acre experimental lease to grow oysters and hard-shell clams in Morgan Bay in Surry, near the head of Blue Hill Bay. That application drew tremendous opposition from owners of nearby shorefront property and other Surry residents.

Between March and June of 2013, DMR held three days of public hearings on the application, with the first two lasting into the wee hours. In early September, a DMR spokesman said a decision on Porada’s application was “waiting to be written” and was “caught in the backlog.” As of Nov. 7, DMR still had not issued any decision.

The backlog at DMR may be shrinking.

At the end of the summer, the department hired a second hearing officer to assist Aquaculture Administrator Diantha Robinson. Over the past few weeks, the department has announced decisions on nearly a dozen applications to renew aquaculture leases throughout the state.

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