Sakonnet aquaculture bill dead for now as General Assembly adjourns

Legislation would have restricted farms to more than 1,000 feet off shore along entirety of Sakonnet River

By Ted Hayes
Posted 7/1/22

Legislation that would have restricted aquaculture operations along the Sakonnet River remained stalled in the House of Representatives when the General Assembly's 2022 session ended Friday.

House …

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Sakonnet aquaculture bill dead for now as General Assembly adjourns

Legislation would have restricted farms to more than 1,000 feet off shore along entirety of Sakonnet River

Posted

Legislation that would have restricted aquaculture operations along the Sakonnet River remained stalled in the House of Representatives when the General Assembly's 2022 session ended Friday.

House Bill 8244, sponsored by Rep. John Edwards of Tiverton, would have restricted future and proposed farms to more than 1,000 feet offshore from the mean high tide line.

The bill was requested by the Tiverton Town Council in May and was supported by Save Seapowet, an advocacy group opposed to a plan by Little Compton brothers John and Patrick Bowen to develop a roughly one-acre farm just southeast of the Seapowet bridge.

In its original form, the legislation would have restricted such operations statewide and would have impacted more than 80 percent of current oyster and other shellfish farms across the state. Rep. Edwards acknowledged at a hearing before the House weeks ago that his original bill was "overly broad" and would be revised to focus in on the Sakonnet area.

The bill would have also created a four- to five-year pilot program to study the issue, which would have been overseen by the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

Last week, Senator Louis DiPalma said he stood ready to submit companion legislation in his chamber, if the House was able to bring its bill to a vote. However, he did not file companion legislation prior to the end of the session.

The Bowens first applied for a lease with the CRMC in December 2019, and had a full hearing before the agency in May 2021. Due a technicality, the application was sent back to the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, where that agency subsequently approved it. Patrick Bowen said Tuesday that he and his brother are waiting for their final CRMC hearing on the matter.

Another farm, proposed just north of the Seapowet bridge by another group, was withdrawn from consideration before the CRMC.

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