Gouldsboro voters will meet Monday evening to decide whether to adopt a 6-month development ban on large-scale aquaculture facilities.
The vote is aimed at delaying local approval of a proposed salmon farm in Frenchman Bay so the town can have time to update its development ordinances.
If the moratorium is approved, it would allow Gouldsboro to make sure the town’s development regulations are adequate for protecting the “the quality of life and the health and safety of town residents,” according to a resolution that accompanies the proposal. It also aims to ensure the development does not have an undue burden on the town’s infrastructure and resources such as water supplies, roads, and public safety departments.
The vote will be held at a special town meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov 15 at the Gouldsboro Community Center on Route 195, known locally as Pond Road.
American Aquafarms is seeking state approval to lease two 60-acre sites in the bay where it would use 15 floating pens, each of them 150 feet wide, at each site, to produce 30,000 metric tons, or about 66 million pounds, of salmon each year. The proposed site in the bay lies within the boundaries of Gouldsboro, but it is the state that governs marine leases below the low-tide line.
Fish grown at the site would be processed at a fish plant in the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor that for decades functioned as a sardine cannery and, in the past decade, as a lobster processing site. American Aquafarms has an agreement to acquire the plant from the current owner, Maine Fair Trade Lobster, contingent upon getting approval for the salmon farm.
The town does not have any authority over the growing pens American Aquaculture would use in Frenchman Bay, but the company is expected to need planning board approval and building permits from the town in order to convert the Maine Fair Trade Lobster site into what the company says will be a “state-of-the-art” processing plant.
The company will have to get approvals from Maine Department of Marine Resources and from Maine Department of Environmental Protection in order to place salmon growing pens in Frenchman Bay.
American Aquafarms’ plans have been heavily criticized by many area residents and organizations who say that the pens would jeopardize water quality in the bay, create gear conflicts with local fishermen, and that the large, industrial scale of the project is inappropriate for the site, which abuts Bar Harbor and is clearly visible from Acadia National Park.
Jacqueline Weaver of Friends of Schoodic Peninsula, said the moratorium is needed so the town can ensure it has adequate regulations for addressing truck traffic and local water usage that will be generated by American Aquafarms’ proposal, and so it can better anticipate its impact on local property values and other local marine-related activities, among other things.
“We have an existing, thriving economy in the bay [area] with 5,400 jobs linked to the beauty and pristine nature of Acadia National Park,” Weaver said. “This industrial salmon farm with salmon waste being dispersed throughout the bay, damaging existing fisheries, does not belong here or anywhere else along the coast of Maine.”
Officials with the company have said that if Gouldsboro voters approve the proposed moratorium, it will continue to work with town officials to help make sure the town’s interests are protected and to bring investment and jobs to Gouldsboro.
“Ultimately, this project – and a successful aquaculture industry across the state – will result in a stronger, coastal economy and a healthier, sustainable environment for us all,” Tom Brennan, the company’s director of project development, has said.
Eve Wilkinson, Gouldsboro’s town manager, said that in addition to the proposed moratorium, voters also will be asked Monday night whether they will authorize the town to accept donations for its shellfish reserve account, which is used to fund the town’s shellfish management program.