Organizers to review shellfish district plan

Posted Feb. 22, 2010, at 10:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:47 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — After getting feedback Monday from about two dozen shellfish diggers, organizers of an effort to establish a seven-town shellfish conservation district in eastern Hancock County said they would revisit some of the provisions in the proposed ordinance.

Much of the measure is likely to stay as is, however, as organizers have to schedule public hearings in each town that would be part of the district, according to Joe Porada. Porada is a digger and Hancock property owner who is helping to lead the effort.

The district would include Ellsworth and the towns of Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan and Trenton. Voters in each town have to approve the proposed district, which organizers hope to have established by May 1.

Many of those in attendance Monday afternoon at the meeting at City Hall were from outside the proposed member towns. Among the concerns raised at the meeting was not limiting the number of diggers from outside the district who are either 65 or older or 16 or younger. Plans call for issuing only 10 licenses to diggers from outside the proposed district, regardless of age.

Jim Norris of Lamoine, a digger who is helping with the proposal, said organizers would consider not limiting the number of nonresident licenses for people in those age groups.

“That’s going to have to be looked at,” Norris said.

Porada said the cost of $400 for a normal nonresident license likely would not change. Nonresident diggers older than 64 or younger than 17 would have to pay $200 for a license, according to the current proposal, he said.

He said that keeping license costs relatively high would help cover the costs of hiring a warden and will weed out diggers who are not serious about their trade.

Porada said he expects that, if the district is approved, the enabling ordinance will have to be amended many times as issues arise.

“We’re going to be changing this when there are real issues,” Porada said. “If it’s the right thing to do, we’ll do it.”

The idea of creating the district, in which all seven municipalities would abide by the same ordinance and would share the costs of hiring a warden to enforce it, came up last summer after red tide closures resulted in diggers from distant towns coming to Hancock County to dig for clams. The upper reaches of Frenchman Bay were among the few places along the coast last summer not closed by red tide.

State law allows anyone who holds a state shellfish harvester license to dig for clams in a town that does not have a local shellfish harvesting ordinance. By establishing a local district, member towns could limit the number of diggers from outside the district who could harvest clams within its member towns.

A public hearing on the proposal has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at the town office in Franklin, which is expected to hold its annual town meeting on March 27. Tonight, district advocates are expected to meet with selectmen in Trenton, where a special town meeting likely would have to be held to get local ap-proval by May 1. Trenton’s regular town meeting is scheduled for May 21-22.

Copies of the district ordinance as it is proposed can be viewed online at www.lamoine-me.gov/Shellfish/Indexshellfish.htm.

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