Incorrect assumptions

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to Rebecca Richardson’s Aug. 4 letter to the Islander titled “Hearing was sham.” I’d like to correct several misrepresentations made about the July 28 aquaculture lease hearing for Bar Harbor Oyster Co. LLC in Thomas Bay.

The letter suggested that the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) had made up its mind to approve the aquaculture lease and would not allow testimony regarding concerns about bird activity near the airport.

The DMR does not have the legal authority to consider aviation safety, nor do we have the expertise regarding birds and aviation. That mandate falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, who will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) in evaluating the issuance of an ACOE permit (which is required by law) for the proposed aquaculture activities.

Allowing testimony about aviation issues would have been disingenuous, as the DMR cannot consider testimony beyond our jurisdiction. Any testimony regarding aviation would, by law, have had to be ignored.

The letter also suggested that DMR staff responses to attendee questions were “made up.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The testimony provided was based on more than 35 years combined experience by the DMR aquaculture scientific staff. DMR staff testimony was based on this vast experience, in-depth knowledge of the scientific literature and experience from jurisdictions around the world.

The DMR staff’s intent was to address the relevant questions and to clarify inaccuracies that were being discussed. One such misconception was the notion that fecal refuse from oysters is a health hazard. Oysters are cold-blooded animals, and their wastes simply are not comparable to warm-blooded mammals (humans) in term of any public health risk.

Richardson also alleged that the DMR is ignoring public health issues in our consideration of this lease. To the contrary, the DMR has a rigorous water quality monitoring program and conducts pollution source surveys to ensure public health and safety. The DMR’s shellfish program is audited annually by the Food and Drug Administration and found to be in full compliance.

Finally, aquaculture hearings are structured to allow all arguments, both for and against lease applications. Informed testimony at these hearings will always have more impact than misinformation spread through the media. Richardson’s decision to leave the hearing before offering comment and then to air her criticisms in the press provides no opportunity for productive consideration of her concerns.

Meredith Mendelson

Deputy Commissioner, DMR


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