Proposed Jonesport fish farm in hands of planning board after voters reject ban

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JONESPORT, Maine – Two weeks after local voters decided against passing a temporary ban on aquaculture development, the city’s planning board is reviewing Kingfish’s application to build a large fish farm off the road 187.

About 50 people, not including city officials or company representatives, attended Tuesday night’s board meeting at the local high school, where several rows of folding chairs had been set up to accommodate the larger crowd. than normal.

The proposal has created local divisions between proponents who want economic development and don’t think it will cause harm and opponents who think it will harm the environment and negatively impact the city.

Kingfish Maine, a Dutch company, wants to develop a $110 million land-based amberjack farm on 94 acres of land on Dun Garvan Road, next to Chandler Bay. When completed, the development – one of four large-scale aquaculture projects that have been proposed on Maine’s east coast – would initially create 70 jobs at the site and produce an estimated 13 million pounds of flounder yellow every year, Kingfish officials said.

Tuesday’s meeting covered only part of the demand. Another meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 18 will give the planning board more time to complete the review, although additional meetings may be required before the review is completed and a vote is taken.

Although some in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting urged the council to reject the proposal, most in attendance appeared to support it. More than once, many attendees cheered when someone spoke in support of Kingfish’s proposal or expressed a favorable view of it.

Elizabeth Boepple, a Portland lawyer representing opponent of the Protect Downeast project, said the group is concerned about the project’s potential impact on Chandler Bay’s water quality and the value of nearby properties. She also said that since Kingfish plans to have on-site housing for some of its employees, the application should be subject to the city’s subdivision ordinance.

Members of Protect Downeast “oppose this industrial-scale fish farm”, Boepple told the board. “It’s far from a simple process. We believe you will find that Kingfish failed to meet local standards and the permit should be refused.

A few residents also said they were concerned about the impact trucks to and from the plant would have on Highway 187, which is maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation. The fact that the emergency generators housed on site could create pollution and noise when switched on was also raised as a concern.

Supporters countered that Jonesport already has a lot of truck traffic with lobster bait brought into town and lobsters transported, and that there has been little or no objection to the impact of those trucks on roads, or pollution and noise from trucks. or lobster boat engines.

According to the State Department of Marine Resources. Stonington, the second busiest, had less than 12 million pounds in landings last year.

Dwight Alley, a former Jonesport manager, said he hadn’t heard any good arguments to reject the offer. He said the city should not continue to depend solely on the lobster industry, whose future could be in jeopardy due to the impact of climate change and federal whale protection.

“We all know that lobster is the life of our community,” Alley told the board. “We also know that there is no guarantee that he will continue as he has.”

Kingfish has already received the state and federal permits it needs to begin construction, though an appeal for its approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection is still pending.

This appeal – filed by the Sierra Club of Maine, the Roque Island Gardner Homestead Corporation and the Eastern Maine Conservation Initiative – is heard Thursday morning by the State Board of Environmental Protection.

DEP staff recommends to Council that the appeal be denied on the grounds that the project will not unreasonably impact the surrounding environment, nearby activities, or local infrastructure or services. The fish farm will also not violate state water quality law, according to the DEP.

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