CONCORD, Mass. – Pryor Kelp Farm, of Mystic, Connecticut, 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 constructing structures to raise kelp in waters of Fishers Island Sound. This work is proposed in waters approximately 2,360 feet northwest of Latimer Reef and 1,950 feet northeast of Red Nun ''16''. The project is proposed to be undertaken at Department of Agriculture state-issued lease identified as 2016-SW# 18, south of Stonington, Connecticut
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 3.9-acre area will commence on/after Oct. 1 and the crop harvest and lines will be removed by June 1 of each calendar year. The gear to be deployed will be set in a 600-foot-long by 280-foot-wide area. The purpose of the structures is to grow seaweed (kelp) as a harvestable crop for human consumption and commercial distribution.
The regulated activities involve the installation of ten, 500-foot-long lines anchored at each end and in the middle with 500-pound pyramid anchors, for a total of three anchors per longline and 30 anchors for the entirety of the project. The gear will be set in water depths of 21 to 25 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) and 24 to 28 feet mean high water (MHW). The two terminal anchor lines will be attached to a 24-inch white surface float (a total of 20 24-inch buoys) with 1/2 inch vertical mooring chain, and the center anchor will be attached to 5/8 inch vertical sinking line. Between the pair of terminal anchors will be affixed a 500-foot-long horizontal seaweed growing line made from 1/2-inch poly line, strung at approximately 5 feet below the water's surface. Along each of the 500-foot-long lines, there will be between up to 14, 12-inch diameter black buoys (for a maximum number of a total of 140 12-inch flotation buoys), to accommodate the weight of the growing seaweed throughout the growing season. There will be a minimum of 20 feet of space between each of the set longlines.
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 five feet between the growing seaweed and the estuary bottom at MLLW. In addition, the gear area will be marked by six ''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 in May 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 proposed project will impact approximately 380 square feet of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), out of a possible 3.9- acre area, that has been designated through the New England & Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. This habitat consists of subtidal bottom of gravel-sand in open water of Fishers Island Sound. Temporary obstruction or modification of subtidal 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 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. The public notice, with more specifics on the proposed work by Pryor Kelp Farm, can be viewed on the Corps website at www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.
Public comments on this work proposed by Pryor Kelp Farm (file # NAE-2018-02506) should be forwarded no later than Dec. 12, 2018 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.