Edgartown selectmen approve new aquaculture lots off Eel Pond

The new aquaculture area is about one mile north of Eel Pond, in the open waters of Nantucket Sound. — Courtesy Edgartown Shellfish Dep

Edgartown selectmen voted Monday to establish a new 35-acre aquaculture area in open water north of Eel Pond. The new area, to be known as Middle Flats, will provide room for 10 new two-acre lots to cultivate oysters. Edgartown shellfish warden Paul Bagnall said four of the lots have already been assigned.

“This is an area where the guys in Katama can expand,” Mr. Bagnall told selectmen at a short public hearing on the new area. He said oyster growers will not be able to maintain barges in the new area, and will have to modify their gear to make sure the oyster cages remain anchored underwater in stormy weather.

“It’s about a mile off Eel Pond, so I think the visual impact will be minimal,” Mr. Bagnall said, pointing out that the only thing visible above the water will be small buoys.

“I think it’s something that there is obviously a need for,” said selectman Margaret Serpa said. Selectmen Michael Donaroma and Art Smadbeck joined her to approve the measure unanimously.

There are currently 12 aquaculture lots leased to local oyster growers in Katama Bay, and a waiting list of people who want a lot. The four people who have applied for lots in the new area, already hold lots in Katama Bay, and intend to transfer oysters from the bay to the new aquaculture area for the final stage of growth.

State regulators set the price a town can charge for the lots at $5 per acre, a nominal cost intended to encourage aquaculture. The town charges an application fee of $150 to apply for a lot.

The project still needs approval from the Edgartown conservation commission.  It will also need approval from state regulators.

Also at their regular Monday meeting, selectmen voted to hire George Brown of Oak Bluffs as the town’s new procurement officer. Mr. Brown will be responsible for making sure town departments comply with complex state procurement laws.

“The committee was made up of various department heads, and Margaret (Serpa),” said town administrator Pam Dolby. “We interviewed six people, and everybody agreed on this guy.”

In her report to selectmen, Ms. Dolby said investigators from the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission visited the Island last week.

“There were no violations at all in Edgartown, and they were extremely impressed with the number of ID readers purchased by all the businesses,” Ms. Dolby said.