MOUNT DESERT — Build-up of salmon feces, escaping fish, and use of private property on Bartlett Island topped the list of concerns from parties commenting Wednesday on Atlantic Salmon of Maine’s application to raise up to 512,000 fish in Blue Hill Bay.
The Fairfield-based company wants the exclusive right to raise Atlantic salmon and blue mussels in a 15-acre tract off the northern end of Bartlett Island. Company representatives presented their plans to an audience of approximately 75 people in a public hearing Wednesday night.
The Department of Marine Resources must complete a findings of fact and make a recommendation on the company’s request for a 10-year lease of the 600-by-1,089-foot space within 120 days of the hearing, said hearing officer Laurice Churchill.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which issues permits for proposed structures on the lease site, will determine whether to grant a permit a month after the DMR issues its recommendation, said Jay Clement, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The 10-year-old Atlantic salmon company now operates two hatcheries and six sea farm leases (four in Machias and two in Pleasant Bay, about 40 miles west of Machias) and one processing plant in Bucks Harbor in Washington County.
Atlantic salmon would be stocked as smolts, or young salmon, in the cluster of 16 steel cages and mature to 12 pounds in a 15- to 20-month period, according to the Bartlett Island lease application.
In the first year, the young fish would be fed by hand, said the company’s manager, Bob Hukki. In the second year, the young salmon would be fed by a centralized system that blows feed pellets through 3-inch pipes from a semisubmersible vessel approximately 20 by 30 feet in size, Hukki said.
Underwater cameras would monitor feeding techniques, and some scattering of fish feed may occur above the water. If not cleaned from surface areas the feed could cause odors, Hukki said.
Noise generated from the fish-feeding power source would be about the equivalent of a typical powerboat with an inboard engine. It would be permitted to run 12 to 14 hours in the summer, about seven to eight hours in winter. Feeding usually takes place twice daily, Hukki said.
Addressing concerns raised from correspondence with Acadia National Park, Clement asked Atlantic Salmon of Maine about insulating pipes which deliver feed to the pens and connecting the feeding operation to an electrical grid system to reduce noises from generators on the site.
Hukki said the Bartlett Island site has potential to be powered from shore.
The site would likely be staffed with a six- to eight-person crew, according to Hukki. The crew would likely gain access to the site at the Bartlett Landing in Pretty Marsh. Responding to concern about an overburdening of the public facility, Hukki said employees could car pool and that no commercial activities would take place at the landing.
“If we develop a base of operation in Blue Hill, we could service the site from there,” Hukki said.
Testifying for the company, David Gelinas, ship’s pilot in Penobscot and Frenchman Bay who holds an unlimited master’s license, said the location of the proposed salmon farm would not cause an “undue burden” to navigation in the area. Gelinas said he met with Maine’s windjammer association and discussed the possibility of placing a permanent day marker to increase visibility of a shoal area, if the Coast Guard would approve it, and possibly place one or two moorings in nearby Galley Cove anchorage.
Two abutters and two statewide organizations received intervenor status or standing in the lease application procedure, said Churchill. Charles Gagnebin III, a Bartlett Island property owner; Ralph Keef, president of the Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation; Doug Chapman, an attorney representing Bartlett Island property owner David Rockefeller; and Barbara Witham of the Union River Salmon Association, who did not attend the hearing.