CONCORD, Mass. – Stonington Aquafarms, LLC of 60 Sandpiper Crescent, in Milford, 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 installation of equipment to raise shellfish in waters of Fishers Island Sound outside of the Stonington Harbor breakwater in Stonington.
This work is proposed at a state of Connecticut shellfish lease identified as Lot 584. The project site is approximately 1,700 feet to the southeast of Wamphassuc Point and will be located 165 feet southwest of the harbor breakwater.
The first phase of the project will involve the installation of 70 (40 double stack bottom cages approximately 4 feet long by 3 feet wide by 2 feet high attached to horizontal sinking ground lines set in a north-south configuration (10 cages per line) for the rearing of eastern oyster. Each ground line will be set in water depths ranging from 18 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) to 21 feet mean high water (MHW) and ballasted by the weight of the cages/shellfish.
Each line, with 10 bottom cages spaced approximately 25 feet apart, will possess a single flotation buoy on one end to locate and tend the cage line. Additionally, during this phase the applicant will install 10 independently-buoyed, 4-foot-long, by 4-foot-high, by 3-foot-wide, bottom cages set a minimum of 25 feet from the next adjacent cage or line. For Phase 1, the 50 cages will be spaced over a 0.97 acre area of the 7.7 acre lease site. There will be a total of 14 vertical buoy lines in this phase. The entire 0.97 acre first phase gear area will be surrounded by four aid to navigation ''hazard markers," affixed by chain to helix anchors, spaced at a maximum interval of 300 feet, in conformance with state of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection navigation agency requirement .
Phases II and III will mirror the number and configuration of bottom cages and floats in Phase I. Each phase will be implemented with a minimum of 50 feet between the corresponding corner aid-to-navigation buoys. At full build-out the project will consist of 120 bottom cages affixed to ground lines in a north-south configuration and 30 independently-buoyed cages over a total gear area of approximately 2.66 acres. Additionally, the full project will maintain a minimum 25 foot buffer from the submerged aquatic vegetation/eelgrass bed to the west and a 165 foot buffer from the southern side of the Stonington Harbor breakwater.
The proposed project will impact approximately 1,800 square feet of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). This habitat consists of unconsolidated gravel-sand. 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 Stonington Aquafarms, 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 Stonington Aquafarms, LLC (file # NAE-2018-00503) should be forwarded no later than Dec. 20, 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.