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Permit sought from Corps of Engineers to place structures for proposed oyster farm in Westport

Published May 12, 2015

CONCORD, Mass. Kerian Fennelly is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District to conduct work in waters of the U.S. in conjunction with placing structures for an oyster farm in Buzzards Bay, east of Gooseberry Neck, in Westport, Mass. The site is located in the town of Westport approved aquaculture zone. The site coordinates are: Latitude 41o29’28”, Longitude 71o1’30”.


The proposed project involves work and structures below the mean high tide line of U.S. waters in order to create a submerged longline oyster farm located on a 25-acre lease site. The farm will consist of a suspended longline system that will hold oyster cages in the middle of the water column. The average water depth at the site is 21 feet at mean low tide. Public comments on this proposed work can be submitted to the Corps through June 12, 2015.


The submerged longlines would consist of a large rope between two bottom anchors that will be suspended off the bottom substrate with floatation buoys. Cages would be hung from the line in the middle of the water column. The site would have 32, 1-inch diameter longlines, each 726 feet long, stretching north to south across the lease site. Each end of the longlines would be anchored with a 12-foot helix anchor equipped with a 2-foot wide corkscrew into the seafloor. After the anchor is set, the anchor would have a footprint of 3.14 square feet. A total of 48 anchors for the farm would have a permanent impact of 151 square feet.


Once suspended, each longline would be floated 15 feet off the bottom creating a horizontal section of line that is 686 feet long. The horizontal section would be maintained to a depth of 5 feet by 5 surface buoys and 90 subsurface buoys that will be located 3 feet below the water surface on the lines. The surface buoys would be the only visible part of the farm. Each line would have 5 surface buoys, for a total of 160 surface buoys for the farm. Metal radar reflectors attached to yellow surface buoys would mark the site corners. The radar reflectors also would have a flashing light to be seen in the dark and fog conditions.


The cages are 1 inch rubber-coated wire mesh with dimensions of 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet high. The cages would be placed 7 feet apart on the main line with a maximum of 100 cages per line. At completion there will be 3,200 total cages. Cages will be maintained at a distance of no less than 9 feet off the sea floor. All of the gear will be marked with the business name and permit number.


The farm would be serviced weekly by a 45-foot workboat. Typical operation would occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. year round. The boat is equipped with a crane and hydraulics that lift a portion of a line to the surface allowing the cages to be maintained. During the spring and summer, empty cages will be filled with small oysters. As the oysters grow, the cages will be sorted and graded. Fouling organisms will be removed from the gear and oysters. Full size oysters will be harvested and brought to market. 


The proposed project will impact 25 acres of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for various species and life stages. This habitat consists of subtidal open water. Loss of this habitat may adversely affect these species. 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, can be viewed on the Corps website at:  http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.


Public comments on this work proposed by Kerian Fennelly (file #NAE-2015-206) should be forwarded no later than June 12, 2015 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Christine Renzoni), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA  01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Christine Renzoni at 978-318-8026 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: christine.m.renzoni@usace.army.mil.

Tim Dugan

Release no. 2015-046