JON ROGERS OF ORR’S ISLAND speaks about his proposal to culture American oysters at a public hearing on Monday night.

JON ROGERS OF ORR’S ISLAND speaks about his proposal to culture American oysters at a public hearing on Monday night.

HARPSWELL

Jon Rogers, a lobsterman from Orr’s Island, is pursuing a 10-year aquaculture lease to farm American oysters in the Harpswell area.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources held a public hearing on Monday night regarding his proposal for a site located northwest of Orr’s Island in Harpswell.

Rogers will be installing lines of floating bags and submerged cages for the oysters in the 8-acre area.

At the hearing, he noted that a bottom culture was unsuitable for the proposed area.

“Based on what we saw on the bottom, there wasn’t a lot of firmer sediment,” confirmed Marcy Nelson, a marine scientist at DMR who completed a site report of the area.

Nelson also shared underwater footage of the site and said the oysters might even help with water clarity and benefit the growth of eelgrass, which exists to the east of Rogers’ proposed lease boundary.

Rogers agreed to the revised boundaries proposed by DMR, as his site needed to be at least 25 feet away from the eelgrass. He had initially requested the approval of his original proposal, as his site had been outside of the DMR’s current eel maps when he applied.

However, Leeann Neal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, still recommended the 25-foot distance.

“We all recognize the fact that the state has not had an opportunity to update the maps they have currently established on the Maine GIS site and, therefore, we would rely on what DMR has submitted for their site report,” she said.

Neal clarified that if the eelgrass were to grow further into Rogers’ site, he wouldn’t be required to minimize the area of his lease in later years.

Rogers expected that his floating oyster lines wouldn’t disrupt recreational activities like kayaking or fishing. There were also no lobster traps in the area, he added.

“ I think the effect of what I’m trying to do on recreational use is very minimal. Commercial use, as it turns out, it has zero effect,” Rogers said.

He had also spoken with David Carlon, director of Bowdoin College’s Coastal Studies Center on Orr’s Island, in case the farm would interfere with the school’s pier and dock. Carlon was “100 percent behind what I’m trying to do,” Rogers said.

“ Overall, I feel pretty good about the whole thing,” Rogers said. “Anybody that I’ve talked to about what I’m trying to do, the only comment that’s ever made is ‘when are they going to be ready to buy?’”

Diantha Robinson, a DMR hearing officer, also said that there had been no interveners since Rogers submitted his application.

Neighbors present at the meeting were also supportive of his proposal.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the town,” said Jane Smith. “I think things like this could multiply and … I hope there are many, many of these going on, and I’m glad that (Jon’s) involved.”

Another neighbor expressed that the lease would be a “great addition to the town.”

Currently, Rogers has four other limited purpose aquaculture leases, totaling 1,600 square feet. He shared that he took a class on aquaculture before acquiring his other sites last spring.

“I see this as a green fishery. It’s a passive fishery; I’m not going out and taking anything from the ocean — I’m adding to it,” he said after the hearing. “ These things are filter feeders. There is the potential that the water will be cleaner and … I see that as a positive thing. It’s interesting, it’s curious. It’s fun to be part of doing something that I’m competing against a handful of people instead of the lobstering like I’ve always done, competing against 400 people.”

Rogers, who is also employed at L.L. Bean, said he will still be putting out 300 lobster traps this year.

“My goal is to have this work out well enough that in say three to five years, I don’t do any lobstering,” he said.

Robinson said the DMR will be making a decision on Rogers’ proposal within 120 days after the hearing.

“There’s been some back up in the past, and we haven’t always been able to keep up with that, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to get this out within that time frame,” she said.

Decision?

DIANTHA ROBINSON, a Maine Department of Marine Resources hearing officer, said the DMR will be making a decision on Jon Rogers’ proposal within 120 days after the hearing.


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