Stonington Shellfish Commission does not accept application for Quiambaug Cove oyster operation

Stonington — The Shellfish Commission voted Thursday night to not accept a controversial application filed by a part-time Lord’s Point man who wants to grow and harvest juvenile oysters in a small section of Quiambaug Cove.

But the plan is not dead. The commission told Dana Lewis that it would like him to submit a complete application that outlines not only his plan for the cove but also his plan to grow oysters to maturity off Enders Island.

The Enders Island plan was not included in Lewis' original submission. It was expected to be the subject of a second, separate application.

But commission members said they were worried about what would happen to the juvenile oysters Lewis would put in the cove if he could not obtain a permit to move them to cages off Enders Island.

After the decision, Lewis said he plans to proceed with assembling the one application suggested by the commission. He said he expected that work to take much of the winter.

If the commission eventually accepts the application, it would schedule a public hearing.

As they have at several other recent meetings of the commission, more than 100 opponents of Lewis’ plan attended the proceeding, which had been moved from the small Town Hall meeting room to the Mystic Middle School cafeteria to accommodate the crowd.

A dozen people, all but two of whom opposed the plan, addressed the commission Thursday night, reiterating their position that allowing commercial activity in the cove for the first time in more than a century would lead to more commercial operations, decrease their property values and damage the ecology of the cove along with its scallop and eel grass population.

They also said the project would infringe on a small, unmarked channel they use for boating and were concerned about possible industrial contamination in the cove being released by Lewis dredging up oysters with a rake.

Others said the commission should not accept the application until Lewis files the second part of his plan to grow the oysters to maturity off Enders Island.

Attorney Michael Carey, who represents some neighbors on the cove, said Lewis’ application fails to meet requirements for maps, a business plan and an environmental survey, among other items. Because of those deficits, he said, the commission should reject Lewis’ application and not schedule a public hearing.

Cove resident Rosanne Smyle told the commission she is not against aquaculture but is opposed to the commercialization of the cove. She said the Lewis operation would dramatically alter the ecology of the cove.

James Carlton, a marine biology expert who has studied shellfish around the world, pointed out to the commission that its own plan calls for preserving the recreational scallop grounds and eel grass beds in the cove. He said the area would be impacted by oystering.

Retired commercial fisherman Joe Rendeiro, who has lived on the cove for 60 years, said he and his neighbors have never thought of exploiting the cove for personal gain.

“Now someone from out of town wants to exploit our cove for their personal gain. Well, we’ll see about that,” he said.

Lewis, who lives in Milford but owns property on Lord’s Point, told the crowd it was not his intent to change the landscape, impede navigation of the cove, alter its ecosystem or obstruct anyone’s views.

He said nothing would be visible except for him at certain times of the year wading in the water with a 24-foot skiff nearby.

He said that for various reasons, including that the upper cove is not a suitable habitat for shellfish, his operation would not lead to further commercial operations.

Lewis wants to seed 300,000 to 400,000 eastern oysters on the bottom of a 1.7-acre portion of the southwestern section of the cove and then dredge them up by hand when they grow to about 50 millimeters in size. No gear would be placed in the water.

The oysters then would be placed off Enders Island to grow to maturity. Lewis had modified his original plan so the oysters would not be in the unmarked channel and along a sand bar.


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