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Sound Ocean Farm seeks permit to install gear for cultivation of native sugar kelp in Long Island Sound

Published Sept. 12, 2017

CONCORD, Mass. – Sound Ocean Farm 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 installation of lines, buoys, anchors and aids to navigation for the commercial cultivation of a winter crop of native sugar kelp in Long Island Sound in the vicinity of Branford, Conn.


This work is proposed in waters of Long Island Sound, southeast of Indian Neck and approximately 16,500 feet northwest of Gangway Rock and GC "1" on NOAA Chart 12373 at a Department of Agriculture state-issued lease identified as 2016-SW-8. The proposed 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 the 8.3-acre area will commence on or after Nov. 1 and be removed on or before May 1 of each calendar year. The gear to be deployed will be set in a 600-foot by 600-foot area.


The purpose of the proposed structures is to grow seaweed (kelp) as a harvestable crop for human consumption and commercial distribution.


The regulated activities involve the installation of seven, 500-foot-long longlines anchored at each end and in the middle with two 250-to-300 pound anchors (a total of 6 anchors per long line; 42 anchors in all) in water depths of between 19 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) and 25 feet mean high water (MHW). The anchors will be attached to a 24-inch surface float with 5/8 inch sinking (vertical) poly rope at each end of the longline. Between the pair of 24-inch surface floats, will be affixed a 500 foot-long horizontal seaweed growing line made from 3/8-inch sinking poly line, strung 5 feet below the water 's surface. Along each of the 500-foot-long lines, there will be between 10 and 20, 12-inch diameter black buoys, spaced between 30 (April) and 50 (November) feet so that they are able to accommodate the weight of the growing seaweed throughout the growing season. There will be a minimum of 50 feet of space between each longline set.


Once the horizontal growing lines are seeded in November, 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 5 feet between the growing seaweed and the estuary bottom at MLLW. In addition, the gear area will be marked by 8 "aid to navigation" buoys that read "DANGER SURFACE GEAR AREA" spaced at a maximum interval of 300 feet, per state of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection navigation agency requirement. After the last harvest of the season the horizontal long-line gear and buoys will be removed and brought to a land-based facility for inspection and/or repair as needed. The aids to navigation and moorings will remain in the water throughout the year to designate the lease location.


This project will impact 8.3 acres of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). This habitat consists of subtidal bottom of sand, silt-sand-clay and gravel-sand in open water surrounding islands deposited as a terminal glacial moraine. Loss of this habitat may adversely affect species that use these waters and substrate. 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 Sound Ocean Farm, 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 Sound Ocean Farm (file # NAE-2017-00334) should be forwarded no later than Oct. 12, 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. 17-098