BAR PORT – As a controversial salmon farm project goes through the state lease process, Bar Harbor will likely be the first in line to seek “intervenor status”.
City council voted unanimously last week to apply to intervene with the state’s Department of Marine Resources on the proposed Aquafarms U.S. salmon farm project, which is being proposed in the waters of Frenchman Bay off Bar Harbor, although technically under Gouldsboro’s jurisdiction.
The Norwegian-backed company has requested salmon farming at two 60-acre, 15-pen sites northwest of Long Porcupine Island and northeast of Bald Rock Ledge in Frenchman Bay, raising concerns among local environmentalists and fishermen.
If the city obtains intervenor status, it will be allowed to testify at a public hearing on the lease. In some cases, stakeholders can also comment on draft decisions.
No other entity has yet applied for intervenor status, said Jeff Nichols, a spokesperson for DMR.
The board’s decision to obtain intervenor status took only a few minutes with little discussion. The council had previously met James Hanscom, a lobster boat from Bar Harbor and a member of the Lobster Zone B Council, and heard his concerns about the project. Ahead of last week’s meeting, Hanscom made a statement opposing the project to board member Valerie Peacock.
In the statement, 21 Bar Harbor fishermen said they were against the project as it could result in loss of prime fishing areas, increased pressure on adjacent fishing areas, potential loss of service vessel equipment , navigation conflicts, potential water pollution, disturbances to the ocean floor and a reduced likelihood of historic fisheries returning to the region.
“This is not the place for it,” Hanscom said in an interview with the Islander. “Frenchman Bay was never designed to be industrialized on this scale. “
Several bills attempted to make the project’s rental process more difficult, but they were rejected after vehement reluctance from the aquaculture industry, which said the measures would cripple small and medium-sized farms as well.
Hanscom was struggling to get buy-in from the rest of the town’s fishing fleet and also trying to get support from communities across the bay.
The Lobster Dealer was concerned that if approved American Aquafarms would also harm the environment, tourism and tarnish famous views of the island.
“It just doesn’t fit,” Hanscom said. “It has no place here.”
A scoping session for the project is scheduled for June 23, but no public hearing has been scheduled.