FAA approval and state conditions imposed on proposed Goose Cove oyster farm

Posted Jan. 20, 2012, at 7:29 p.m.
Acadia Sea Farms, owned and operated by Trenton resident Warren Pettegrow, applied in February 2010 to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for approval to grow oysters in two 25-acre lease sites in Western Bay.
Acadia Sea Farms, owned and operated by Trenton resident Warren Pettegrow, applied in February 2010 to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for approval to grow oysters in two 25-acre lease sites in Western Bay.

TRENTON, Maine — A local man who hopes to get official permission to cultivate oysters near Goose Cove will have to get approval from federal aviation officials before he can begin operations, according to officials.

Acadia Sea Farms, owned and operated by Trenton resident Warren Pettegrow, applied in February 2010 to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for approval to grow oysters in two 25-acre lease sites in Western Bay, just west of the causeway to Mount Desert Island. DMR is considering approving Pettegrow’s application, but with a list of conditions supported by nearby homeowners who have voiced concerns about his proposal.

In addition to the state’s conditions, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is requiring Pettegrow to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before it will issue him a permit, according to Army Corps project manager LeeAnn Neal. Officials with the nearby county airport have raised concerns about the possibility of birds being attracted to the oyster farm, which could pose a hazard to planes coming and going from the airport. One of the airport’s flight approaches passes directly above where the oyster cages would be.

Neal said Pettegrow’s application to the Army Corps has been shelved until he gets the go-ahead from FAA.

“The corps will not be issuing a permit until the FAA issues are resolved,” Neal said Friday.

FAA officials did not return a message left Friday at the agency’s regional office in Burlington, Mass.

Attempts Friday to contact Pettegrow and his attorney, Douglas Chapman of Bar Harbor, also were unsuccessful.

According to details of the application, the operation could include as many as 5,000 oyster-growing cages spread out over the two lease areas, which add up to a total of 50 acres. The two lease areas are due south of Goose Cove, between Haynes Point and Alley Island. Pettegrow applied to lease the areas for 10 years, during which time the company hopes eventually to produce 10 million oysters annually.

Pettegrow’s proposal generated so much interest from nearby property owners and stakeholders that a public hearing on his application in September 2010 was spread out over several days in order to give people enough opportunity to comment on it.

Diantha Robinson, DMR’s aquaculture administrator, said Thursday that the state agency has not yet approved Pettegrow’s application. Robinson said that the application has been forwarded to Patrick Keliher, DMR’s acting commissioner, who has yet to decide whether to approve it.

According to Sally Mills, an Ellsworth attorney who represents Friends of Goose Cove, state officials are considering imposing several conditions on Pettegrow in exchange for approving his application. Friends of Goose Cove is a group of more than two dozen nearby homeowners who have expressed concern about Pettegrow’s proposal.

“We’re delighted at some of the conditions in there,” Mills said Thursday about the proposed decision that is on Keliher’s desk.

Mills said that the proposed conditions include prohibiting any power-washing at the lease site. With up to 5,000 cages in use, power-washers likely would be in use constantly, Mills said, which would create noise problems for people who live on and near Goose Cove.

She said the state also would bar Pettegrow and his workers from disposing of any marine debris at the site. Anything cleaned off of the cages, Mills said, would have to be taken to a land-based compost site for disposal.

Pettegrow also would be required to keep all cages off the bottom of the bay in order to protect eelgrass beds, the attorney said. And instead of getting two 10-year leases, which he had applied for, Pettegrow would only get five-year leases for each 25-acre site, so DMR could decide whether to renew them in 2017, she said.

“Those are [conditions] that we think are appropriate,” Mills said. “It’s a pretty unusual decision, in a good way.”

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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