Maine’s Department of Marine Resources gave final approval Thursday to an almost 40-acre oyster farm in Brunswick, but opponents said immediately that they will appeal the decision in court.
The controversial farm, located in Maquoit Bay, is owned by Mere Point Oyster Co. of Brunswick.
The 10-year lease on 34.52 acres was reduced from the original request for 39.84 acres. That still will be one of the largest oyster leases in the state, with the potential to bring up Mere Point Oyster’s annual harvest from about 110,000 oysters to as many as 1.5 million.
The DMR gave the lease proposal an initial thumbs up in October. However, the proposed lease drew stiff opposition from some shorefront landowners and lobstermen who feared it could affect their quality of life and create conflicts on the water with recreational and commercial boats.
The company plans to grow American/eastern oysters, European oysters, bay scallops, sea scallops and northern quahogs.
In a 20-page filing with the DMR on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Maquoit Bay on Nov. 5, Drummond Woodsum attorney David Kallin had asked that the DMR commissioner deny Mere Point’s lease application.
Among the complaints in the filing was that one of the owners of Mere Point Oyster, Daniel Devereaux, was also the harbormaster for Brunswick when the lease request was under consideration.
In its ruling Thursday, the DMR said that at a pre-application meeting in July 2017 Devereaux said that Brunswick’s Town Manager John Eldridge would assume duties related to the lease proposal. Devereaux later corrected that instruction after the meeting, saying that Thomas Garrepy, Brunswick Patrol Commander, would review the proposal.
Kallin could not immediately be reached for comment.
Shortly after the DMR ruled to approve the lease Thursday, a group called the Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage issued a press release saying the decision would be appealed in court.
Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage spokesperson Crystal Canney was not immediately available for comment.
“Intervenors say the hearing officer’s recommendation ignores the permitting rules, fishermen’s testimony and the will of the people in favor of a wealthy aquaculture investor and Brunswick’s harbormaster, who has serious conflicts of interest in the project,” the press release said.
DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols said that the DMR’s ruling is final, and any appeal would have to be filed through Cumberland County Superior Court.
Devereaux said the review process through the DMR, which included 16 hours of public testimony on three different days, was thorough.
“The process is pretty well vetted,” he said. “I’m confident that if there is an appeal it will be rejected.”
Devereaux said that of the 34.52 acres, only 28 are workable because the company had to allow for a pass-through corridor on the lease. However, it will pay $100 per acre per year to the state to lease the entire 34.52 acres, he said.