ELIOT, Maine — Frustrated residents from the Eliot and Kittery sides of Spinney Creek appeared before the Select Board Thursday night, seeking recourse about their concerns of the proposed expansion of Spinney Creek Shellfish.
Spinney Creek Shellfish, at 27 Howell Drive in Eliot, is applying to the Maine Department of Marine Resources to obtain a three-year aquaculture lease on 3.67 acres of Spinney Creek, a salt pond between Eliot and Kittery off the Piscataqua River. The new lease is for raising oysters and littleneck clams (quahogs) in suspended cages.
The residents have discovered Eliot and Kittery’s boards have no control over aquaculture in the pond.
Roberta Place of Spring Lane on Spinney Creek said residents of 50 households bordering the creek are concerned about the creek’s health.
“I have lived there a long time. I used to swim there with a wet suit. Now the temperature in the creek is 74 degrees,” she said.
She said she thought oysters are supposed to clean water, but added that the eelgrass in front of house has disappeared.
Mike Dowling of Meadow Lane said he accepts the 180 cages Spinney Creek is using now.
“I am not against aquaculture and small business, but I think it needs to be done in the right space, size and scope,” he said.
Dowling said the new application would support 800 cages on the 3.67 acres, but added it could apply for a regular license and grow to 100 acres.
Norm LeMoine of Salt Creek Way in Kittery said the expansion is “overly aggressive farming.” LeMoine said Spinney Creek is a land-locked, non-tidal salt-water pond. He said he is concerned for the ecosystem of the pond and the “scenic vistas.”
“Who empowered a private company to be in charge of Spinney Creek?” he asked.
LeMoine said the tidal gate for the pond is controlled by Spinney Creek Shellfish and is opened only a few times each year.
Select Board Chairman John “Jack” Murphy said the aquaculture expansion deserves a review by Eliot government. “To not go through a process bothers me,” he said.
But Town Manager Dana K. Lee said the shellfish company is not asking to expand its facility on land in Eliot so the Planning Board has no say.
The concerned residents said they want the Select Board to be aware of the permit application and urged those interested to attend a Maine Department of Marine Resources public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Rice Public Library, 8 Wentworth St. in Kittery. The hearing is being held in Kittery because the area of Spinney Creek in the aquaculture application is in Kittery.