CONCORD, Mass. – Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC 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 assessing the feasibility of developing shellfish aquaculture in Waterford, Conn. The project site is located in the Niantic River on the eastern portion of Squall Flats, northwest of Mago Point. The southernmost corner is located 363 feet northwest from Red #6 buoy and the northernmost corner is located 361 feet east of Red #14 buoy.
The proposed work involves the installation of racks, bags, cages, trays and associated aids to navigation to assess commercial feasibility for shellfish aquaculture on the river (shoal) bottom and in the water column at an existing 6.41-acre shellfish lease. The lease will be broken down into four separate experimental growing areas. The purpose of the proposed structures is the experimental cultivation of eastern oyster for commercial shellfish aquaculture and rearing of native bay scallop for population enhancement and restoration.
Rack Area: this gear area will include the phased installation of up to 305, eight-foot long by two-foot wide by one-foot high racks constructed from 3/8-inch reinforced steel bar in the first year (25% of Area E-1), on which approximately 525 mesh bags will be placed for the rearing of shellfish. The initial phase of rack installation will commence from north to south (landward) in an approximate configuration of 37 rows of 33 racks. There will be a minimum of one foot of space between each row. The site will be expanded with a maximum capacity at five years of 1,221 racks holding 6,105 mesh bags.
Trays with Feet: this gear area, which will be used exclusively for the rearing of bay scallop, will include the phased installation initially of 111 (10% of Area E-2) three-foot wide by four-foot long by 17-inch high PVC coated steel mesh wire trays with feet. The gear will be installed with a minimum of three feet between trays and five feet between rows. The area has the potential for expansion to maximum capacity at five years of 1,110 trays.
Deep Sea and Non-Foot Trays: for deployment at this gear area during the first year of the phased project there will be up to 1,000, two-foot wide by two-foot long by one-foot high rearing trays constructed of high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic secured in place with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. The gear will be installed with a minimum of one foot between each tray and three feet between each row. Upon expansion to capacity at five years this gear area will hold up to 4,206 trays.
The northwest corner of the lease has been designated as an over-wintering area as it does not dewater completely during the tidal cycle. Gear and/or its shellfish from Areas E(l ), E(2) and E(3) will be located here for survival purposes. This rearing area will not add additional units of gear to the shellfish lease.
Seasonal operation will commence at the beginning of each shellfish season with the establishment of a crop in April of the calendar year. The growing shellfish will be tended throughout the growing season and the majority of the product disseminated to market by late-fall or early-winter. Some portion of the shellfish seed and scallops may be overwintered in the area identified above. All harvesting, cleaning and sorting will be completed by hand, without the use of heavy machinery or mechanized tools.
The entire lease and its individual gear areas will be surrounded by eight Boating Hazard Marker Buoys as an Aid to Navigation, at no more than a 300-foot interval, per state of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection navigation agency specification. Water depths at the site range from approximately three inches mean lower low water (MLLW) to 16 inches MLLW at maximum ebb tide and approximately 39 inches to 51 inches at flood tide.
This proposed project will impact approximately 6.9 acre of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for various species and life stages. This habitat consists of intertidal and subtidal dynamic sand bar (packed sand) with outlying areas to the south and east of unvegetated mud/silt bottom. Temporary obstruction of this habitat may adversely affect forage species and access for juvenile fish resources. 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 by Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC, 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 work proposed by Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC (file # NAE-2017-00205) 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.