State denies permit for Kenai Fjords oyster farm

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state has denied an application for a floating oyster farm in the Kenai Fjords.

According to the state's decision, the business would interfere with boaters, pose a safety hazard and could degrade the scenery of the surrounding national park.

The proposed site is in 680-acre Paradise Cove, at the lip of Aialik Bay. The cove is about half a day's journey from Seward for power boats and a full-day's trip by sailboat.

First-time oyster farmer Robert Hardy wanted to use the site to build a floating 5-acre web of buoys and suspended pens.

His request triggered protests from Kenai Fjords National Park, which said a commercial oyster operation would not mesh with the park's wilderness ethos.

Recreational sailboat captains were concerned about losing one of the few safe places a small boat can set anchor in a storm.

Those concerns turned out to be valid, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, which evaluates applications to use state-owned land.

While Paradise Cove is expansive, only a fraction of its acreage is shallow enough for safe anchorage, the agency concluded. The oyster farm was to be built in that prime location.

Hardy's plan to submerge most of his operation 10 feet underwater to reduce a potential eyesore would not work, the state said. The operation would need warning buoys and lights to alert passing mariners to steer clear. Those lights and buoys would detract from the scenery, defeating the purpose of having a submerged farm, the state said.

Finally, state reviewers said the project would eventually require the nearly full-time presence of a 70-foot vessel used to operate the farm, hindering recreation and tourism.

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