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Thursday, January 29, 2004

DeLauro Adds Voice to Plea for Another Oyster Hearing

Rep. Rosa DeLauro has joined efforts to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hold another public hearing on a controversial proposal to raise oysters in cages under the surface of Long Island Sound off of Westport and Milford.

The Democrat, who represents Connecticut’s 3rd District which includes Milford, sent a letter to the New England regional office of the Army Corps on Tuesday requesting that it hold a hearing on Mariculture Unlimiteds revised proposal, according to today’s New Haven Register.

The Army Corps is one of two entities that have final say on the permit to raise oysters. The state Department of Agriculture must also approve the proposal.

Last week, the Army Corps extended until Feb. 9 the period for the public to offer feedback on the revisions made to the plan. (See WestportNow Jan. 21, 2004).

A hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which does fact-finding for the Army Corps, is already planned. Two hearings were held last summer before the application was revised.

“The original Mariculture application raised widespread concern throughout Milford about potential adverse impacts on existing recreational, navigational and commercial users,” DeLauro wrote in her letter, according to the newspaper.

Mariculture submitted the revisions in December in an effort to eliminate public objections that its original plan, submitted early last year, was a threat to public safety and might reduce property values of homes on the Sound.

DeLauro acknowledged the revisions in her letter, but said an additional hearing by the Army Corps is warranted.

“I believe it is important that the public be given the opportunity to review and comment in the context of a public hearing so that they have a clear understanding of the project that is now being proposed,” DeLauro said.

Matt Fritz, a DEP spokesman, said Wednesday that his agencys hearing likely will be held in Milford, although the date and location are still being determined, the Register reported.

Whether the Army Corps of Engineers will convene a second hearing on the revised application is still uncertain.

Officials at the New England regional office in Concord, Mass., were unavailable for comment on Wednesday, the Register reported, but a Corps spokesman told WestportNow last week that his agency might join in a DEP hearing.

When the Corps held a hearing on MaricultureҒs original permit application, officials from the DEP were also on hand, Fritz noted.

“It is possible that the Army Corps could piggyback their public hearing with ours,” he said. “But whether or not they want to do that or hold a hearing of their own ח is really up to them.”

Mariculture has made substantial modifications to its original proposal.

The company reduced the area it wants to use from 522 acres off Westport and Milford to 175 acres. The revised application also calls for installing cages over three years instead of all at once.

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Posted 01/29/04 at 02:18 PM  Permalink



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