With the future for aquaculture looking bright following a successful experiment in farming blue mussels this year, the Chilmark selectmen voted this week to award two Menemsha shellfishermen five acres of North Shore water to continue their work growing mussels.
Tim Broderick and Alec Gale harvested 1,900 pounds of blue mussels this summer in the experimental farm. Now they plan to set up ten 500-foot lines in Chilmark waters, where they hope to grow 10,000 pounds.
“This can be a business in the future,” Mr. Broderick told the Chilmark selectmen at their weekly meeting Tuesday night. “The ability for us to get 10 more lines out there and grow those out is the next step for us. We’re very enthusiastic about the project. We have to take it to the next step.”
Mr. Broderick and Mr. Gale began their project in 2006, aided by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to underwrite a farming experiment in Rhode Island and Vineyard waters. Mr. Gale said based on that experience he and his partner learned that the mussels will grow to maturity in nine to 10 months.
“The future of this project was to have it be a working business, and that was always our approach to it,” Mr. Broderick said. “We have to start somewhere and 10 lines is a realistic approach to that.”
Work on the experimental mussel project has been contagious and a group of other shellfishermen are now eager to try their own hand at it; as a result the selectmen awarded Dennis Jason, Matt Mayhew, Lev Wlodyka and Todd Mayhew one line each to experiment with growing mussels, with an option to use waters off of Noman’s Land.
“I’m completely new to this,” said Mr. Mayhew. “I was thinking of getting the space and using it as a learning [experience], more of what Alec and Tim started. Getting funds to make at least a line would be a step for me . . . I’m curious to see how they grow. We’ve all been talking with each other and maybe working together to make something happen for Menemsha harbor.”
The prospective shellfish farmers face a long permitting process. Mr. Broderick and Mr. Gale still must return to the Army Corps of Engineers for final permission for their work, and the other four have just begun. Warren Doty, who is a Chilmark selectman and president of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, offered his assistance with the paperwork. Selectman Frank Fenner offered moral support.
“You guys really stepped up to the plate in the beginning here and it’s really appreciated,” Mr. Fenner told all six shellfishermen. “I really wish you the best . . . you can really make something out of this.”
In other good news for Chilmark this week, the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council awarded the town $200,000 toward rebuilding the Menemsha dock destroyed in the July 12 fire. After a five-minute presentation that included photographs of the fire and destruction, Lieut. Governor Tim Murray and a panel of state waterway user representatives awarded the grant.
“It’s terrific,” Mr. Doty said yesterday on his way back to the Island with Mr. Fenner and selectman Jonathan Mayhew from the meeting in Fairhaven. “The impressive part of our presentation is the fire and damage. Once you see that you know we need to rebuild.”
Mr. Doty credited Cape and Islands Rep. Tim Madden for getting them on the agenda at the last minute. The selectmen originally asked for the full $1.5 million to fund the repairs, but because this year’s budget was already allocated, only $200,000 was available from the state.
Chilmark voters approved a $1.5 million borrowing article at last week’s special town meeting. Mr. Doty said they plan to ask for full reimbursement in the next fiscal year, but meanwhile will borrow the remaining $1.3 million needed to rebuild by next summer.
On Tuesday selectmen held a detailed debriefing following the special town meeting, including lengthy discussion on the Tea Lane Farm project, which has gone back to the drawing board with $30,000 to create a new plan for the farm.
Town executive secretary Timothy Carroll said he is drafting a proposal to put before the selectmen next week that would create three separate committees: a farm committee, a house committee, and a committee to decide what to do with the farm and house before it is ready for a tenant.
Also stemming from discussion at town meeting about another warrant article, the selectmen said they will file a request with the conservation commission to require anyone who has a stairway or walkway down to a tidal area to register the stairs as part of the permitting process. The request follows discussion on a Lucy Vincent Beach restoration article at last week’s special town meeting.
The selectmen also voted to deny permission for a pan-Island triathlon to take place in Chilmark next September. Matthew Brackman from Odyssey Sports presented his plan to have a triathlon run through Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah two weeks ago, but the selectmen unanimously agreed that traffic control at Beetlebung Corner was too problematic. The concept was great, the selectmen said, but the police duty required to help with the event was more than Chilmark can handle.