Aquaculture permit for Mitten's Flats moves ahead

Dec 20, 2017

A year after originally submitting his application, Shea Doonan received the go-ahead from the Board of Selectmen to move forward.

Last December, Doonan came before the selectmen with a request for an aquaculture license on Mitten’s Flats. However, the process came to a halt in January after Catherine Brodeur transferred her aquaculture license to Doonan.

The town’s regulations state that a second half-acre site can only be issued to an applicant once he or she has proven to be responsible with the first site.

Instead of outright denying the application in January, Doonan had requested a continuance to June. When June came, he requested another continuance so he could prove himself to the Harbormaster. At a meeting in September, Harbormaster Isaac Perry and the selectmen still weren’t ready to approve a second site and the hearing was continued again.

The site has raised flags with residents from the beginning, and Monday’s night was no different.

Resident Jay Somerville spoke on behalf of himself and other residents on Hammonds Cove. He expressed concern that the site wasn’t good for aquaculture and would disrupt recreational activities in the area.

“The area being discussed is an existing shellfish bed,” he said. “…And most importantly, this is the last stretch of open water in Sippican Harbor. Tabor [Academy] uses it for crew programs, residents use it for recreation. I learned how to sail in those waters, and my grandchildren are out there learning how to paddle board. This water has better uses than for an oyster farm.”

Doonan insisted, however, there would still be room for Tabor to use the space, as well as other residents.

“We went over the map, and there is a two football-fields-wide area that [Tabor] could go through,” he said. “It’s only a half acre. If you learned to sail out there, you can learn there still. I won’t be stopping anyone.”

Resident Hardwick Simmons said that he isn’t necessarily for or against aquaculture in general, but believes there needs to be a set plan for the harbor.

“There is so little room left in the harbor, and no plan for that room,” he said. “I just don’t believe there should be any more permits issued in the harbor until we have a plan. If the highest and best use is aquaculture so beat it, but in the meantime we should hold off the permitting process.”

Simmons also suggested a feasibility study for a Master Plan for the harbor, and offered to foot a “significant amount” of the cost.

However, Harbormaster Isaac Perry didn’t necessarily agree that a Master Plan for the harbor would be useful.

“I think the harbor is pretty well run,” he said. “We don’t just take things as they come. We have rules and regulations for a reason. We’ve been through this process before.”

Ultimately, the selectmen gave the OK to continue with the application, which will go on to be reviewed by various state agencies before coming back to the selectmen for final approval.