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Freeport, state environmental agencies work to find pollution solutions at Wolfe's Neck Farm

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Freeport, state environmental agencies work to find pollution solutions at Wolfe's Neck Farm

FREEPORT — Members of the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation said they are committed to working with the town, the state and the Freeport Shellfish Commission to find solutions to pollution caused by manure runoff into the clam flats of Casco Bay.

In a public meeting last Thursday, members of the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation met with town councilors, members of the Freeport Clammer's Association, the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Protection to discuss ways to clean Casco Bay and reopen the flats.

In July, Pineland Farm Natural Meats notified Wolfe's Neck Farm that it would terminate its contract by Sept. 15 and no longer use the farm to house and graze nearly 200 cattle. The decision was made in part because heavy spring rainfall carried waste into the ocean and contaminated the nearby clam flats. In addition, it would become too costly to house the cattle, and cover the additional expenses associated with installing fences around each gully to alleviate the runoff.

Ned Porter, deputy commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, said the state's desire is to work with the DEP to implement a "best management plan" for the farm.

"We want to get people back on the flats making a living again," he said. "Let's get back to where we were several years ago when the bay could be harvested."

But Anna Bourakovsky, field supervisor for the DMR, said in order to open the flats, water samples must be taken to identify pollution sources, environmental conditions and rainfall impact. She said the data could be taken over several years and would need to be reassessed after normal farming practices start again next spring. She also said it was against DMR practice to offer temporary openings and closings of flats based on the presence or absence of cattle at the farm.

Andy Fisk, director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality at the DEP, said his office is working with the Department of Agriculture to create a management plan manual for farms located near water.

"What needs to be understood is that the farm has made a tremendous efforts to implement the farm management practices," he said. "There can be a lot of reasons for contamination – dog waste, rain flow, farm waste. It is a very complex situation."

Matt Randall, compliance officer at the Dept. of Agriculture, said the draft management plan includes temporary and permanent fencing to contain waste, safe storage and spreading of manure, alternate watering areas, rotating grazing fields, cleaning a natural goose habitat and draining a contaminated fire pond. He said plans are not set in stone and will change as conditions change on the farm.

Both Tim Kitteridge, executive director of the farm, and Judy Park-Hill, vice president of the farm foundation board of trustees, said the farm will do everything it can to identify solutions.

"We will work with the agencies to institute BMPs and work as fast as we can," Park-Hill said. "We have a common interest to open the flats as soon as possible."

Even without the cattle, she said, the farm will continue to be a place for educational, agricultural and recreational activities.  

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net