CONCORD, Mass. – A public hearing on the Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC proposal to assess the development of shellfish aquaculture in the Niantic River in Waterford, Conn., will be held on Dec. 7, 2017 in Waterford, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District.
Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC is seeking a permit from the Corps of Engineers for work in waters of the U.S. in conjunction with assessing the feasibility of developing shellfish aquaculture in Waterford. The proposed shellfish farm location is 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. A public notice on this proposal was issued on Aug. 1, 2017.
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 approximately 6.41-acre area in Niantic River in Waterford. The applicant is working with the Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission to obtain use of an area within the river identified as WELSCO-7. The corner coordinates for the proposed project site are: Latitude 41.32719 North and -72.17808 West.
The purpose of the proposed structures is the experimental gear evaluation for the cultivation of eastern oyster for commercial shellfish aquaculture purposes and the rearing of native Atlantic bay scallop for use in the Niantic River for population enhancement and habitat restoration.
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 at the Waterford Town Hall auditorium at 15 Rope Ferry Road in Waterford. Hearing registration will start at 6 p.m. and there will be a public information session starting at 6 p.m. The formal public hearing will start at 7 p.m. The applicant-sponsored information session at 6 p.m. will allow members of the public to ask questions and obtain information about particular aspects of the project from the project proponent, as well as, obtain information from the Corps of Engineers about the permit evaluation process.
Public hearings are held at the discretion of the District Engineer and the purpose of the hearing is to acquire information from the public so the Corps of Engineers can conduct a thorough evaluation of pertinent issues. Public comments on the aquaculture proposal can be submitted at the hearing or can be submitted to the Corps of Engineers by the deadline of Jan. 7, 2018.
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.
Several alternative locations were investigated by the applicant and are listed in the public notice.
The installation of gear is proposed to be phased over a five-year period with a maximum buildout of 1,221 eight-foot long by two-foot wide by one-foot high 3/8-inch rebar racks that will cumulatively hold 6,105 mesh bags for the containment and grow out of eastern oyster, 1,110 three-foot wide by four-foot long by 17-inch high PVC-coated steel mesh wire trays with feet rearing of Atlantic bay scallop, and 4,206 two-foot wide by two-foot long by one-foot high rearing trays constructed of high density polyethylene plastic secured in place with PVC pipe “legs.”
During the growing season (spring through late fall) shellfish will be held in one of these three gear areas. The growing shellfish will be tended throughout the season and the majority of the product disseminated or to market by late-fall or early-winter. 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 the other gear areas may be located to this portion of the site for survival purposes during the winter to avoid freezing/desiccation. 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 aquaculture project 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.
The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact of the proposed activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit which may reasonably accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered, including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are: conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural value, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, flood plain value, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food production and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.
Public comments on this work proposed by Niantic Bay Shellfish Farm, LLC (file # NAE-2017-00205) must be received by Jan. 7, 2018. Send comments 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.