The state Department of Marine Resources continues to make life easier for clammers along the Mid-coast.

Instead of waiting 14 days for mud flats to re-open after closures, the department announced the automatic re-opening period has been reduced to eight days.

Alison Sirois, supervisor of the Shellfish Growing Area Program, revealed the new Kennebec River plan during a meeting of the Phippsburg Shellfish Committee last week.

Last year, the DMR and towns situated at the mouth of the Kennebec River agreed to permit clamming during elevated river levels: 60,000 cubic feet per second from Feb. 1 through April 30; 40,000 cfs May 1 to Sept. 30, and 30,000 cfs Oct. 1 to Jan. 31.

Previously, the state had insisted on water flow of no more than 30,000 feet per cubic second.

Restrictions may get even more relaxed.

“We’re working on modifying the lower river trigger to higher levels,” Sirois said Friday.

The DMR closes clam flats when river flow is high because bacterial contamination from ground effluent leaches into flats and infects shellfish.

Sirois touted the cooperative nature of the effort.

“The Kennebec project was an example of the state and a municipality partnering to improve management,” she said. “DMR and the towns stepped up to the challenge and in the case of Phippsburg even funded much of the sampling.

“This study required lots of long days in the field and lab including (what seemed like all) weekends and holidays. The fact that harvesters had almost three months more harvest opportunity this year is a direct result of DMR, Phippsburg, Georgetown and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust working together.”

The management plan will be changed again in 2013 based on data collected, and could include reducing 14-day closures to eight days, further altering river flow triggers, removing the rainfall area in Atkins Bay and removing seasonal closures in Wyman and Todd bays.

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