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Monday, February 11, 2013

Key town commission approves oyster project, despite dissent of CCA members

Small test project gets CPMC OK - but the Aqua-NIMBYs will have their best shot tonight
Well, Aquaboy, Leo's view of the pond sure is nicer
now that we chased all those oysters away
By Will Collette

Anyone who has ever visited the Matunuck Oyster Farm knows the potential aquaculture has for our coastal environment – and the economy. A thriving business, the Farm grows its own oysters in a manner that aids coastal pond clean-up. They then dish them up to crowds who are willing to endure long waits to get a table at the restaurant to enjoy a great meal.

The state is an enthusiastic supporter of shell fish aquaculture as the perfect combination of environmental stewardship and economic development.

But that’s not good enough for some of our local coastal residents who seem to be becoming a  new movement – The Aqua-NIMBYs. While alleging their support for the idea of aquaculture, people like CCA Treasurer Leo Mainelli say they just don’t want to look out their windows and see those unsightly shell fishermen.

Sure they like aquaculture, but just not here. And tonight, they might get the Town Council to disregard the CPMC's recommendation.

CCA Treasurer Leo Mainelli makes Aqua-NIMBY argument
After scoring one win by getting the Charlestown Town Council to oppose half of the current proposed Quonochontaug Pond aquaculture project on the Westerly side of the pond, near the home of CCA ally, RI Statewide Coalition founder and chair Harry Staley, they set their sights on the eastern half of the proposal. 

Speaking to a receptive crew of CCA Town Council members at the January 28 Citizens Forum, Leo Mainelli spoke of his support for aquaculture, in theory, but how he just doesn't want to have to look at it. 

If they could have gotten around the restrictions of the Open Meetings Act, the Council majority would have voted there and then to oppose the entire oyster farming project. 

As is often the case, the Town Council overlooked the town commission with relevant jurisdiction, the Coastal Pond Management Commission, which by rights should have been given the chance to review and comment on the proposal before the Town Council took action.

It sure would be terrible if the Aqua-NIMBYs had to see this
When the CPMC reviewed the project on February 4 and heard from town residents and from East Beach Farms LLC owner Jim Arnoux, they decided to recommend the Town support the project for an initial 1000 square foot test site.

One thousand square feet? That’s smaller than the servants’ quarters for some of the CCA leaders.

If this three-year viability test works out and there are no problems, Arnoux hopes the state Coastal Resources Management Council will grant him a lease to farm oysters on up to three acres.

CCA Town Councilor Dan Slattery has already made it clear he plans to support the aqua-NIMBYs.
Given that the town’s CPMC’s positive recommendation comes after the Town Council already pretty much decided it would prefer oysters be farmed in some other town, Monday night’s scheduled Town Council action on the matter seems to be a foregone conclusion.