GOULDSBORO — The town expects the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to close Prospect Harbor to shellfish harvesting after two shoreland properties recently were found to have deficient septic systems that may be to blame for unacceptable water quality test results in the inlet.
Late last spring, those mudflats opened and were reseeded after being closed due to pollution for 40 years.
At the Select Board’s meeting on Dec. 9, Gouldsboro Infrastructure Superintendent Jim McLean said DMR is aware of the failed water quality tests, and he expects the state agency to close Prospect Harbor to shellfish harvesting “for only one year,” not five years as initially anticipated. McLean said the latter would mean an estimated loss of $100,000 to shellfish harvesters over five years.
McLean told Select Board members that one of the shorefront properties has a steel septic tank but lacks a leach field while the other has a malfunctioning field.
In a related move earlier last week, Planning Board members expressed support for McLean to draft an amendment expanding Gouldsboro’s shoreland ordinance by requiring property owners to obtain a permit for septic systems repair. That would make the town aware of defective septic systems and ensure that corrective action is taken in a timely manner. Otherwise, the condition of septic systems is unknown until chance water quality tests result in closures.
Last May, the town’s Shellfish Committee and local clam diggers broadcast some 20,000 seed clams in the intertidal area on Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore. The baby mollusks were covered with nets to protect them from seagulls, green crabs and other predators in the zone. That effort is part of a comprehensive, long-term project to restock and revive clam flats around town. Last month, Gouldsboro’s newly opened shellfish resiliency laboratory took in 33,700 juvenile clams, measuring 7.5 to 25 millimeters, to winter over in a tank that is regularly replenished with fresh seawater pumped from Bunkers Harbor. The surviving juveniles were from a batch of 105,000 seed clams that had spent the summer growing in wood-framed nursery trays in the former lobster pound in the inner harbor.
In other business, Select Board members agreed to explore the acquisition of a drone. McLean told the board a drone is an effective tool for scoping out erosion in less visible, accessible shoreline areas. Such a tool could be put to use in coming months as part of Gouldsboro’s year-long study to determine what action the town can take to better prepare for extreme weather and protect its shoreline. Led by Education Research Director Emeritus Bill Zoellick and Gouldsboro Shellfish Warden Mike Pinkham, the project is being funded by $29,623 in state and federal funds from the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Maine Coastal program.
As part of that project, McLean said some private parties had offered to contribute funds for a drone’s purchase. He added that Prospect Harbor resident Pauline Angione already is researching what type of drones are used by other Maine communities such as Windham. He said the drone’s use would require an FAA-certified operator. Operators must be recertified every two years.
Select Board members unanimously supported the acquisition of a drone and Select Board Chairman Dana Rice said the town likely could front the funds to make the purchase sooner than later. Nevertheless, they voted 5-0 to accept any private donations for a drone that would a useful tool for the town to have in general.