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Aquaculture Farm Expansion Wins OK

RHODE ISLAND Providence fish farmer Jeffrey Gardners request to add two acres to his five-acre aquaculture farm on Winnapaug Pond in Westerly has won unanimous approval from the Coastal Resources Management Council.

In spite of objections from Westerly Town Solicitor Steven Hartford and some of the property owners around the pond, the council considered Gardner’s application at its 23 October meeting and ordered Gardner to meet with objectors to try to resolve the issues they raised.

Gardner, who has farmed Winnapaug Pond since 1993 and operates Shellfish for You, a purveyor of what he calls Watch Hill Parramore Oysters, detailed the meetings he has had with neighbors and efforts he has made to accommodate them.

He said he had mailed proposals to all the objectors. He offered: to eliminate the pathways, which he says are rarely used by the public, between the racks of trays where the shellfish are grown and to do this on both the existing farm and the proposed farm; to use grey PVC pipes instead of white PVC pipes for markers so the boundaries of his farm would be less noticeable; and decrease the size of his request from three to two acres.

The coastal council agreed to consider the request to add two acres, without changing the original five-acre farm, its underwater passageways or the color of the markers.

During public comment, Hartford offered the Town Council’s concerns: that the pond had a delicate ecological balance and that the lease interfered with recreational use of the pond. Coastal council Chairman Michael Tikoian said the town should have hired biologists to testify.

Doug Fernandez Sr., whose family owns two summer residences on Harbor Drive, said leasing part of the pond to a private business was “like selling the trees in our parks for homebuilders.”

Source: Providence Journal