Stonington shellfish panel to review controversial Quiambaug Cove plan Thursday

Stonington — The Shellfish Commission on Thursday night will review a new application by a part-time Lord’s Point resident to raise shellfish in Quiambaug Cove and outside Stonington Harbor, to determine if the application is complete.

A previous application by Dana Lewis of Milford was met with widespread neighbor opposition last year. The commission then declined to accept the application because members said it did not contain details on his plans to raise the juvenile shellfish to maturity off Enders Island after he harvested them from the cove. Since that time, Lewis has come up with a plan to raise the oysters to maturity in stacked cages just outside of Stonington Harbor. He now seeks approval from local, state and federal agencies for that portion of the plan.

Commission Chairman Donald Murphy said Wednesday that while there is always an opportunity for residents to comment on issues at the beginning of commission meetings, Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at Mystic Middle School is not a public hearing on Lewis’ application.

He stressed the commission only will be reviewing it to determine if it’s complete. If it is, he said the commission will formally accept the application. If not, Lewis would have to go back and address any outstanding issues.

Murphy said that only after Lewis obtains state and federal permits for the Stonington Harbor section of the plan will the commission hold a public hearing on the application.

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 Quiambaug Cove and then dredge them up by hand when they've grown to about 50 millimeters in size. No gear would be placed in the water. 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 then would place the juvenile oysters in cages in a 7.7-acre state shellfish lease area located about 1,700 feet southeast of Wamphassuc Point and 100 feet south of the harbor breakwater.

His Army Corps of Engineers’ application states the first phase of the harbor/Wamphassuc Point project involves the installation of 70 double-stack bottom cages approximately 4 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall. They would be attached to horizontal ground lines set in a north-south configuration. The 10 cages per line would be used to rear oysters in a 1.66-acre area of the lease site.

The gear would be in water depths ranging from 18 feet to 21 feet and would be surrounded by four navigational aid hazard markers.

Phase 2 calls for up to 400 bottom cages affixed to ground lines. It states the full project will maintain a minimum 25-foot buffer from the submerged aquatic vegetation/eelgrass bed to the west and a 100-foot buffer from the southern side of the Stonington Harbor breakwater.

Cove residents said last year 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 eelgrass populations.

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. Lewis has since moved his grounds out of the channel.

j.wojtas@theday.com 

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