As posted on TraceyC-Media.com by TRACEY C. O’NEILL
Narragansett – The Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Marine Fisheries facility at Jerusalem is slated for overhaul under the Governor’s $75 million environmental bond initiative.
The natural resources expenditures, introduced by Governor Lincoln Chafee in his State of the State address in January, encompass $75 million for land acquisition and clean water projects, as well as $2.5 million for improvements at Fort Adams State Park and event center in Newport.
Green Asset Bond Funding Shellfish Management Facility
The bond sets aside an estimated $3.2 million for a Shellfish Management Cooperative Facility in support of the growth of aquaculture in the state.
“Right now, as you know, for the last year or so, there has been what they call the Shellfish management planning process,” Larry Mouradjian, Associate Director for DEM told the Galilee Advisory Committee on Tuesday.
“The URI (University of Rhode Island) Coastal Institute has been facilitating that. They have been having meetings with stakeholders, academia and all sorts of folks for the last year and a half. This will be substantiated by that report,” he said. “It’s need will be substantiated through that report, but ultimately the monies to build it hopefully will come from that bond issue.”
According to Mouradjian, if approved, the referendum bond will provide funding for a facility to allow for collaborative efforts between DEM and its partners.
“We’re looking to renovate that facility and ultimately provide new facilities that will first accommodate staff – DEM staff, stewardship responsibilities and research for shellfish management specifically,” he said.
“And then also have a coordinated use for our oyster restoration partners, typically, Save the Bay, TNC (The Nature Conservancy). Third, within that Shellfish Management Collaborative will be some room for the coordination and research of aquaculture.”
Kevin Kosko, Chair of the advisory committee, asked Mouradjian about the Shellfish Management Plan (SMP).
“When you say shellfish, do you mean hardshell, or lobsters and crabs and things like that.”
Mouradjian explained that the plan encompasses different species of bivalves, including hardshell and softshell, oysters and steamers.
The facility location and docks form a perfect access area to put forth (shellfish) restoration efforts according to Mouradjian.
The SMP, presently under development, is expected to provide policy “regarding management and protection measures for shellfish, such as quahogs and oysters, located in state marine waters. ”
Years in the making
David Crooks, committee member questioned Mouradjian as to the timeline for the project.
Mouradjian explained that all is dependent on whether the bond receives voter approval. Once approved, the project is expected to take approximately two years, with the first stage dedicated to planning and design. The second stage, the actual build is expected to take a year.
“The department has a need for it as an extended facility,” said Mouradjian. “Hopefully the voters will approve it.”
Although the SMP will move to Jerusalem, Mouradjian said that the Fort Wetherill facility in Jamestown will remain active.
“Fort Wetherill will remain in use as a Marine Fisheries building,” said Mouradjian. “It is just too small. Shellfish Management will move to the new facility at Jerusalem and Marine Fisheries will still use Fort Wetherill.”
As for any tie-in with University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute programs and coastal environment partners, Mouradjian explained that the facility itself is now a DEM facility and will remain a DEM facility.
Aquaculture development on the horizon
According to Laura Dwyer, Public Educator and Education Coordinator for the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the Shellfish Management Plan is being spearheaded by the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center.
“We work with Rhode Island Sea Grant and CRC. They are taking the lead on the SMP,” said Dwyer. “They do the heavy lifting for us. They have the resources. From our perspective, it’s being treated like a Special Area Management Plan. We coordinate with them.”