Harbor Committee reviews shipyard marine expansion

Committee wants fishermen's mooring locations addressed
By Ben Holbrook | Jan 16, 2013

Belfast — The Belfast Harbor Advisory Committee completed its review of the proposed marine expansion by Front Street Shipyard with members’ main concerns centering on local fishermen whose moorings are being relocated.

A portion of Front Street Shipyard’s expansion proposal involves adding a third leg to its existing travel lift pier in order to accommodate a 330-ton capacity lift, and to increase the size of the turning basin to allow larger ships to maneuver within the harbor.

Expanding the travel lift will require driving additional pilings, which would have to be completed by mid-April under state law. However, Front Street Shipyard representatives noted that the Army Corps of Engineers informed them that restriction would not be enforced because of previous testing, which found the sound levels when driving the pilings were not as high as anticipated.

The company is also looking at constructing a sixth building –– possibly on the city-owned parking lot on Front Street –– but the Harbor Advisory Committee considered only the marine improvements.

David Black, a member of the Harbor Advisory Committee, asked Front Street Shipyard how large the ships coming into the harbor would be. President J.B. Turner said the length of the boat is less of an issue than the weight. While he didn’t expect to have many boats over 150 feet in length, he said it would be possible the shipyard could haul a 200-foot carbon yacht.

With the request for a larger travel lift pier and turning basin, Jim Black, also a Harbor Committee Member, and David Black were concerned that local commercial fishermen who have moorings near the turning basin would be forced to move as a result of the expansion.

“We’re displacing fishermen. We need to discuss what will happen with the people who have been down there 30 years,” Jim Black said.

While not opposed to Front Street Shipyard’s expansion, he said he is concerned with giving too much water space to any company or person.

Harbormaster Katherine Pickering reassured committee members that the turning basin expansion does not push any of the existing moorings out of the inner harbor, and she was planning on relocating a number of the moorings even if Front Street had not submitted an expansion plan.

“Moorings move; it doesn’t mean you can’t be a fisherman,” Pickering said.

Local fishermen Wayne Canning and T.J. Faulkingham are looking at a potential mooring relocation within the harbor.

Canning, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting Thursday, Jan. 3, said he needs at least six feet of water for his lobster fishing business. He noted that his mooring is located near the edge of Front Street Shipyard’s existing turning basin and that the new basin will “gobble me up.”

While he is concerned about the future accessibility of the inner harbor, Canning expressed an interest in working with Front Street Shipyard and the city to come to a mutual agreement about mooring locations.

Like Canning, Faulkingham said he is willing to work with Front Street Shipyard and the city to find a way to accommodate everyone.

“I don’t like to see the small guy get driven out by big business,” he said.

David Black requested that the conditions of approval include language to ensure that any displaced moorings would be relocated in an area that was equivalent to where they were before.

Black also suggested adding general language requiring Front Street Shipyard to exercise necessary safety precautions when moving boats around in the harbor to minimize the potential for accidents.

After the brief public comment session, City Planner Wayne Marshall said the city had not received any written or emailed comments regarding the expansion proposal.

Marshall met with mooring owners who are impacted by the expansion proposal and representatives from Front Street Shipyard following the Jan. 3 meeting to discuss potential opportunities for relocating the moorings. Marshall said there are areas where fishermen can be relocated that are comparable to their current moorings and he believed everyone left the meeting with a “high degree” of confidence that the issue would be resolved fairly.

Canning, who attended the second portion of the review process Tuesday, Jan. 8, said he felt better about the relocation efforts and believed a fair deal would be worked out.

The Harbor Advisory Committee concluded its review of the project and it will now go before the Planning Board on Jan. 23. A special City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29, for a first reading of the proposed expansion.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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