Shellfish Commission: no issues with dinghy dock

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 8:45am

The proposed public dinghy dock is making its way through various town committees in order to gain favorable advisories on the plan, and on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Shellfish Commission took up the subject. 

Harbormaster Steve Land presented preliminary plans for the dock, which as reported elsewhere is to be built by the Wronowski family and leased to the town for one dollar per year, for 20 years. The plans call for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramp, supported by piers, leading to a floating dock system made up of 20-by-eight foot segments. The ramp extends out from the shore by Dead Eye Dick’s restaurant in New Harbor, with the dock itself running parallel to the road leading to Payne’s Dock, resulting in an L-shaped dock. Both the ramp and the docks will be hauled out during the “off-season” and stored on land. Land said that the shape and placement of the dock could, in the future accommodate “fingers” for room for additional dinghies.

Land told the commissioners that the Wronowskis wanted the dock “policed very well” and that the Harbors Department would be responsible for making sure that there would be no dinghies left overnight at the dock, and that it would not become a dumping ground for “derelict dinghies.” (The dock is intended to be used by transient boaters mooring or anchoring in the Great Salt Pond and not for residents who wish to stash their dinghies somewhere for free.)

Members of the Shellfish Commission expressed some concerns about traffic and the taxi turn-around area near the dock, but ultimately gave the project their full approval. “It’s convenient and accessible,” said Commissioner Ray Boucher.

The Commissioners also approved changes to the issuance of commercial shell-fishing licenses that were proposed to them the previous month by Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick. The two key changes are to the definition of “resident” and the date upon which the renewals are issued.

The resident definition will now refer to a general ordinance that defines year-round residence so that if there are changes to the definition, those changes will automatically apply. The current requirement for a residential commercial license calls for the licensee to be on the island for 12 months per year. Under the general definition, a person is considered a year-round resident if they are on the island for nine months.

The other change bumps up the renewal date from January first to December first. When picking up licenses, applicants must prove that they have a commercial license from the state. The problem is that state licenses also have a renewal date of January first, and the state can be slow to issue its licenses, making for a potential pocket of time in January when the fishermen are unable to operate. With the town renewal date of December first, Fitzpatrick said that this problem could be avoided.

Commission Chair Joe Fallon, who has held a commercial shell-fishing license for many years, said, chuckling, of the state requirements: “This is off-topic, but we now have to take an online tutorial” on how to harvest shellfish.

Kelp harvesting proposal

Catherine Puckett appeared before the Commission to give them a “heads up” on a proposal she is working on to grow kelp for harvest in the Great Salt Pond.

Puckett is participating in a program that supports kelp farming run by a non-profit organization called Greenwave. She has just started a two-year apprenticeship/training program with the group and is applying for a lease in the Great Salt Pond with the Coastal Resources Management Council. The lease will be for four acres in the pond, with 2.5 acres being farmed with kelp. 

The kelp will be started in November of each year and fully harvested in April. “Everything will come out in April,” said Puckett, including the rope apparatus and floats that will support the growing kelp. The kelp will be sold for food for both human and animal consumption, and for fertilizer. 

As Puckett will have to go before additional town boards and committees for approval, Land quizzed her on various aspects of the project. “Your only hiccup,” said Land, “is you’re bringing in a biological and need to make everyone 100 percent confident it won’t turn into a kelp forest.”

Puckett responded that it takes a full year for kelp to grow before it can reproduce, thus the complete harvest after six months. Additionally, she said the water in the Great Salt Pond was too warm for the plant to reproduce.

The kelp farm, if approved, will not become fully operational immediately. Puckett said she will be conducting a two-year viability study, and has already garnered support from The Nature Conservancy. 

The first year there will be four “strings” of rope seeded with kelp, and the second year there will be eight. 

The ropes will be strung along the surface of the water supported by floats and from those ropes, more ropes, which will be seeded with kelp, will extend down to the surface of the pond. The project will require a water depth of 20 feet, with the kelp being five feet below the surface. 

The project is part of a broader initiative to bring sustainable kelp farming to Rhode Island. Puckett said she was one of nine potential farmers currently working with Greenwave. More information on the organization can be found at