Residents along Beach Road near Eastville Beach were informed at the end of January of a proposal by the Martino brothers to establish a for-profit commercial oyster farm in the open waters off Eastville Beach. Residents of Beach Road were given less than a month’s notice of this proposal and little time to research and provide comment at the March selectman’s meeting, a time of year when seasonal residents are not on-Island.
We have significant concerns about this proposal and would encourage residents to join us in asking the selectmen for a continuance of the hearing on this topic at their next meeting on August 12.
A commercial oyster farming operation within a few feet of Eastville Beach in this beautiful recreational area will impact not only the residents of Beach Road, but all those who enjoy Eastville Beach and its waters. This oyster farm will impose significant hazards for navigation and swimming and pollute the beach with material, buoys, odors, sounds from equipment such as power washers and permanently moored structures in the water. Oyster farming causes biofouling as well as providing an environment for invasive species to proliferate, such as sea squirts. Furthermore, oyster farming in such an exposed area is not typical due to shifting currents and the impact of storms.
The applicants have proposed expanding the commercial farming on this recreational beach. What follows are our key concerns:
• Environmental impacts of the farm on the quality of beach, water and property. Residents and users of Eastville Beach have not been provided with a detailed review of what the farm will actually look like in the water and farming practices that will be utilized.
• What permanently moored structures are being proposed for the site? What will be the exact size of the moored raft? Is this size mandated by the rules or is it at the discretion of the Martino brothers or the selectmen? If the site or number of cages is increased, will the size or number of rafts increase? How will that change the look of the beach and the quality of recreational use?
• How will the cages be moored? How many cages and how many buoys? Will there be flags or other visible markers? Are there photos or illustrations of other farms that are the model for this farm?
• What is the process for cleaning the cages? Will cages be stacked on the raft for drying? Will power washers be used onsite? Will this create problems with odor, sound pollution and bio-material in the water? Are biocides permitted or regulated, and if so, by whom? Residents have not been informed on these important issues.
• What steps are being made to avoid the infestation of undesirable organisms such as invasive sea squirts that have fouled waters when such farming is done? The quality of the water off of Eastville Beach has been improving yearly since sewering began on Beach Road, benefitting residents and beachgoers.
• When and how often will commercial farmers be working in the recreational waters being proposed? Times of day and frequency being proposed? What will the maintenance consist of? Will there be any lights?
• Residents are concerned that a similar proposal by the Martino brothers in the Lagoon Pond that was defeated unanimously provided residents more time for planning and review. Those residents were given a four-month period from the time the Martinos publicly announced to residents their intention to farm on the Lagoon Pond.
• The process for review of this proposal was minimal for those being impacted. The time for review was prior to the shellfish committee meeting in February, where minutes of the meeting do not even mention the Eastville proposal. By the time the residents became fully aware of this proposal, the shellfish committee had already given their approval to proceed. The first opportunity to comment on this was at the March 15 selectmen’s meeting, where comments were allowed yet no discussion of the comments was permitted. The selectmen approved the proposal.
• Why is such an exposed location being proposed? This location will be prone to movement of materials away from the farming zone. Did any such movement occur last winter with the cages at the Katama site? The Katama Bay site is more protected than the proposed Eastville site.
• The proposal will introduce significant navigational hazard concerns for swimmers, boaters, sailors and other recreational users, including the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club sailing program. Considering the moored raft of uncertain size, the undetermined number of buoys, cages and lines, and the sheer size of the area, significant concerns are raised for residents and recreational users.
Residents are concerned that another oyster farm in Menemsha Pond failed and material and hazards from that farm were not cleaned up for years. To this day, rotting material from that failed farm continues to sully the environment around that pond, and residents were not provided an appropriate remediation process. The current $5,000 account seems small to cover the costs of possible damage to public and private lands and waters. Will the Martino brothers be required to carry private insurance in case of a damaging event?
• What relevance does the FEMA Velocity Zone designations have on this proposal?
• We are requesting documentation under the FOIA and a continuation of the hearing scheduled for August 12.
• Finally, should this be approved, the Martino brothers have already expressed plans for expansion and it must be said that they are not experienced oyster farmers. That is a fact. Too few details about this commercial farming operation have been provided by the proposers.
As residents and recreational users of Eastville Beach and its surrounding waters, we need answers and we request that this proposal remain on hold until all interested parties have had an appropriate opportunity to review the fact, and the interested parties concerns be heard and addressed.
This letter was also signed by Jacob H. Ludwig 3rd, Wendy Ludwig and Amy Ludwig.