Public Comments Raised a Range of Concerns
August 13th, 2021
August 13th, 2021
BY STEPHANIE CLEMENT
Friends of Acadia and many other concerned citizens and organizations attended a June 23rd online scoping session where they asked hard questions of American Aquafarms about its plans to lease two 60-acre sites for salmon farms in Upper Frenchman Bay.
The session, which was organized by American Aquafarms, was part of the process to receive a permit from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Public comments ranged from concerns about conflicts with other fishing activities, to pollution discharge into the bay, to air emissions, lighting, noise, and workforce training.
While Frenchman Bay has a long history of small- scale aquaculture, fish farms of this size have never been permitted here. Each lease site proposed by American Aquafarms would include fifteen pens (147- foot in diameter each) and a feed/generator barge. The farms would be served by at least two vessels (one at 145-feet in length, and the second at approximately 50-feet in length) traveling year-round from Prospect Harbor where the company would house its land-based hatchery and processing plant.
In addition to acquiring permits from DMR, American Aquafarms must apply for permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company has prepared draft lease applications for the DMR, which can be viewed at maine.gov/dmr/aquaculture/leases/draftstandardapps.html. American Aquafarms stated that they intended to file their final application by the end of July.
After completeness review by the DMR, a formal public hearing will be scheduled.
The Friends of Acadia Advocacy Committee unanimously voted to oppose the salmon farms because of concerns about navigation in Frenchman Bay, conflicting uses of the Bay, and impacts to public enjoyment of the park and conserved islands.
This spring, Friends of Acadia wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to request that the agency require American Aquafarms to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement given the significant environmental controversy over the proposal and the fact that the semi-enclosed salmon pens American Aquafarms plans to use have not been tested in the United States. Part of the process of the Army Corps’ review is to consult with other federal agencies, including the National Park Service.
Scenic resources are one of the fundamental resources and values listed in Acadia National Park’s foundation document. Friends of Acadia is concerned about the impacts to the viewsheds from the Paradise Hill sections of the carriage roads and motor-road system, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as from the public waters of Frenchman Bay and the nearby park-owned islands, including Bar Island, Long Porcupine Island, and the Hop, which are popular destinations for recreational hikers and boaters.
The salmon farms will also be visible from the Bluffs area of Route 3, which has been designated as an “All-American Road,” the highest level of scenic classification in the National Scenic Byways Program. The salmon farms will require lighting and continuously operating water pumps, which could degrade the night sky and natural soundscapes over water year-round.
Friends of Acadia will continue to track American Aquafarms’ proposal and send alerts to members about opportunities to comment on the proposal.
STEPHANIE CLEMENT is Friends of Acadia’s Conservation Director.