Amended Aquaculture Rules Accepted

Mattapoisett selectmen ended a two-year quest to define Mattapoisett water usage with the acceptance of a Harbor Management Plan and a list of aquaculture rules and regulations at their meeting on November 22. The acceptance came on the heels of a November 1 public hearing, at which the proposed aquaculture bylaw was read and amended with consideration to public feedback.

To help research and draft the aquaculture rules, an ad hoc committee of residents had been formed. While the majority of the rules had been drafted to satisfy both aquaculture supporters and critics, one aspect of the rules still remained up for debate as the Board sat down to make their decision: the issue of the “one fathom rule”, which had been proposed by the ad hoc committee as a means to limit aquaculture to water of six feet or higher at mean low tide, thereby eliminating the possibility of aquaculture in shallow water.

Concerned with the restrictive nature of the provision, Selectman Jordan Collyer said he would not support the one fathom rule. Instead, he helped to draft a compromising amendment.

The amendment states that aquaculture licenses will be subject to the one fathom rule unless the applicant can prove that the “species intended for propagation” requires shallow water. The applicant must also obtain the recommendation of the Marine Advisory Board, the harbormaster and the unanimous support of the Board of Selectmen to proceed with a shallow water application.

“That should take care of the issue of basically putting a moratorium on aquaculture in Mattapoisett, which I think could [subject] us to legal action,” said Chairman Paul Silva.

“[The one fathom rule] has been expanded and clarified and I can stand behind what’s here because I think it’s fair to everyone involved,” said Selectman Collyer.

Selectman Collyer said that he was “disheartened” to see e-mailed comments that were critical of the Board’s reception to the proposed Harbor Management Plan and the Aquaculture Rules and Regulations proposal.

“I took exception to some of the comments made… saying that we weren’t supporting the water management plan… It was just a matter of us crossing our Ts and dotting our Is,” he said.

The Board praised both the Marine Advisory Board and the ad hoc aquaculture committee for their work.

“I would like to commend the selectmen, the Marine Advisory Board, and the [people] of the ad hoc aquaculture committee,” said resident and pending aquaculture applicant Jim O’Dowd. “A lot of people put a lot of time into this and could see through the malarkey in other parts of town.”

“I’d like to thank you for being patient,” Chairman Silva said to Mr. O’Dowd, who first came before the Board for an aquaculture permit two years ago, but had to wait for the regulations to be drafted before proceeding with his application.

The Board voted to officially accept the Harbor Management Plan, and voted to accept the Aquaculture Rules and Regulations.

In a report to the selectmen, Town Administrator Michael Gagne informed the Board that negotiations with Marion and Rochester regarding Mattapoisett’s share of PEG (Public Education Government) access fees was resolved. The fee, which is incurred by residents from their cable bills, offsets the costs involved in producing public access television. In an effort to televise all government meetings, Mattapoisett had lobbied to increase their cut of the PEG money, which totaled $108,000 last year.

As a result of the negotiations, Mattapoisett will receive 30 percent of the PEG access fee money as opposed to the 11 percent it used to receive, Mr. Gagne said. Some of that money will also go to improving video equipment. Marion and Rochester will continue to have ORCTV televise meetings, while Mattapoisett will televise independently.

“Basically, we get our fair share for the government piece,” said Chairman Silva. “I think we can do a good job with that.”

The Board voted to sign the cable agreement, pending town counsel review.

Under action items, the Board also:
• Voted to sign all 2012 liquor and miscellaneous establishment licenses.
• Voted to appoint Brett Osenkowski to full time police officer.
• Voted to support the sixth annual Tiara Classic Mother’s Day Road Race.
• Granted a conservation restriction to the Coalition for Buzzard’s Bay for an 18-acre parcel of land off Wolf Island Road in Mattapoisett for aquifer and wildlife protection.

The Mattapoisett town hall will be closed on November 24 and 25.

By Anne Kakley

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