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Environment and Outdoors

Acadia Chief Says Frenchman Bay Fish Farm “Incongruous” With Park, Developer Vows No Major Changes

salmon pen.JPG
courtesy of
/
American Aquafarms
Closed pen system for proposed salmon farm.

Officials at Acadia National Park are signaling opposition to a $250 million salmon farm proposed for Frenchman Bay, in the shadow of Cadillac Mountain. But the Norway-based developers say they won't alter their plans in response.

The American Aquafarms project would use closed pens, powered by diesel engines, to raise salmon at two sites totaling 120 acres in Frenchman Bay. Each site would contain 15 pens, which the company says would eventually produce some 66 million pounds of salmon a year.

A 100-plus foot ship based in Gouldsboro's Prospect Harbor would service the sites twice daily. Salmon would be processed at the harbor as well, in the former Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility.

The prospect has park officials worried.

"It's incongruous, something of that scale and scope," says Kevin Schneider, the superintendent of Acadia National Park. He says that the fish farms would be located in the bay between two major park features - Cadillac Mountain to the west, and Schoodic Point to the east and would be visible from Cadillac 's famous peak. One site would lie just 2,000 feet from Long Porcupine Island, part of a bay archipelago owned by the park.

In an interview at his park office Schneider reeled off a list of concerns that he has also share with the Department of Marine Resources.

"We know we're concerned about natural soundscapes, we know we're concerned about air quality, we know we're looking at what's the nighttime lighting, how does it affect our dark skies? How does it affect wildlife? Birds that may utilize the park, are they going to be going to the salmon pens, for example? How does it affect intertidal areas in Acadia National Park? What about odor? There are so many concerns, and we're really in the first inning of this process," Schneider says.

Schneider says aquaculture near the park is more appropriately scaled at an acre or so, not 120 acres. And he has more concerns, many of them shared by an array of Hancock County stakeholders, from lobstermen to hotel owners. But Schneider stopped short of saying outright that the U.S. Park Service would formally oppose the project in state and federal permit reviews - and he says it will thoroughly review the company's submissions before coming to conclusions.

Schneider notes that so far the company has submitted only a draft application to the Department of Marine Resources, and the company still could make significant changes in the final version.

"The short answer is 'no'," says Thomas Brennan, American Aquafarms' project manager. He says he met recently with Schneider and other park officials who made their views clear.

But, he says, "The fact of the matter is the project is proposed for waters of the state of Maine, right? It's not being proposed in the park. And there are rules and laws that guide what can and can not be done in waters in the state of Maine, and we are working very diligently to make sure we are in compliance with all of those."

Brennan adds that the bay has a long history of industrial-scale marine enterprises that go back nearly as far as the founding of Acadia Park. That includes the last sardine cannery to close its doors in Maine - which operated at the same Gouldsboro site where American Aquafarms wants to base its land operations.

The company has six months to submit its final application. In addition to approval of a lease for the ocean-pens from the Department of Marine Resources, the project will also require a discharge permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

And while DMR’s rules allow it to consider impacts on cultural or historic resources only within 1,000 feet of an aquaculture lease, the Corps has broader authority to review effects on federally-recognized historic resources, such as Acadia Park's carriage roads and lighthouses.