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Applicant seeks permit to install gear to cultivate native sugar kelp south, southwest of Sheffield, Shea islands

Published Aug. 1, 2017

CONCORD, Mass. – J.P. Vellotti, of Westport, Conn., is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District for work in waters of the U.S. in conjunction with the cultivation of sugar kelp in waters of Long Island Sound, south and southeast of Sheffield and Shea Islands at state-issued leases identified as 2016- SW-3 Lots 1 and 2, and 2016-SW-4. Lease SW-3 is located immediately south/southeast of Sheffield Island near a marked navigation hazard known as "Yellow Rocks."


The work involves the installation of lines, buoys, anchors and aids to navigation for the commercial cultivation of a winter crop of native sugar kelp. Gear installation at each of the three, 6.2-acre areas will commence in mid-October of each calendar year and a final harvest will be completed in early to mid-June. The gear to be deployed at each location is identical in configuration and technical specification. The purpose of the proposed structures is to grow seaweed (kelp) as a harvestable crop for human consumption and to provide information to support research and education into other sustainable, commercial uses of the crop.


At the 34.05-acre Lease SW-3 there will be two, 600-foot long by 450-foot wide gear areas consisting of eight long-lines between 300 and 500 feet in length. The culture lines will be set from west to east and anchored on each end and in the middle with twin 250- to 300-pound mushroom or screw anchors marked by 18-inch mooring buoy on a vertical, weighted line in an average water depth of 20 feet mean lower low water (MLLW). There will be a minimum of 50 feet of space between each set line. The horizontal lines in the upper water column on which the seaweed will be attached will be suspended a minimum of three feet and a maximum of six feet below the water surface and held in place vertically with 12-inch diameter buoys spaced between 30 and 50 feet apart. The vertical lines will consist of weighted line and/or will be sheathed with a rigid structure such as PVC pipe to minimize the potential for entanglement of turtles and marine mammals.


The gear areas will be tended at least once a week. Additionally, once a month each line will be hauled in and checked for warp and headline depth. Buoys will be incrementally added/shifted throughout the growing season to accommodate the increasing weight of the seaweed to ensure adequate buoyancy and line tension. They will be maintained such that there is a minimum clearance of five feet between the growing seaweed and the estuary bottom at MLLW. Each gear area will be marked by eight "aid to navigation" buoys that read "Danger Surface Gear Area" spaced at a maximum interval of 300 feet, per Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection navigation agency requirement. After the last harvest of the season the long-line gear will be removed and brought to a land-based facility for inspection and/or repair. The aids to navigation and moorings will remain in the water throughout the year to designate the lease location.


At the 19.44-acre Lease SW-4 there will be one, 600-foot long by 450-foot wide gear area consisting of eight long-lines between 300 and 500 feet in length. The site-specific installation and configuration at this site is identical to that described for SW-3.


This proposed project will impact approximately 18.6 acres of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for various species and life stages. This habitat consists of subtidal bottom of sand, silt-sand-clay and gravel­sand in open water surrounding islands deposited as a terminal glacial moraine. Installation of the gear and its bottom anchors may affect these resource areas. However, the Corps has made a preliminary determination that the site-specific adverse effect will not be substantial. Further consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding EFH conservation recommendations is being conducted and will be concluded prior to the final permit decision.


The public notice, with more specifics on the proposed work, can be viewed on the Corps website at www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx. The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps in compliance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which provides for federal regulation of any work in, or affecting navigable waters of the U.S.


Public comments on this proposed work (file # NAE-2016-00974) should be forwarded no later than Aug 29, 2017 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Cori Rose), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Cori Rose at 978-318-8306 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: cori.m.rose@usace.army.mil.

Tim Dugan

Release no. 17-080