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Movin' on up(weller) to Pine Point

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Movin' on up(weller) to Pine Point

SCARBOROUGH — For more than two years, Abigail Carroll has been raising maturing oysters in the Scarborough River.

Because snow canceled Wednesday's Town Council meeting, she will have to wait a couple more weeks to see if she can raise them at Pine Point as well.

Carroll and Town Manager Tom Hall have agreed on a lease providing space adjacent to the Pine Point Pier for an upweller used to raise oyster larvae called spat. The council is expected to vote on approval of the lease Wednesday, Feb. 6.

The upweller, where water is pumped through chambers holding spat in varied growth stages, would be located on floats away from most pier traffic. It would also be a short boat ride from the Scarborough River acreage where Carroll's Nonesuch Oysters grow to maturity in mesh bags attached to floats.

Scarborough Marine Resource Officer Dave Corbeau has been working with Hall and Carroll, and is eager to see the upweller installed.

"I'm looking forward to getting this going," Corbeau said, noting the 8 feet by 24 feet space is accessible only by boat.

The upweller would replace one that washed away in a storm more than a decade ago, and the lease agreement would allow one chamber to be set aside for use decided by the town shellfish committee.

While uncertain how the chamber might be used, Carroll said it could be to raise soft shell clams and help efforts to reseed the river clam flats.

The lease agreement would allow Carroll to shift her nursery operations from an upweller in Biddeford Pool on the Saco River to Pine Point, but she said she will keep some spats at their old location as a hedge against unforeseen circumstances that could damage the crops.

Corbeau said he expects warmer waters in the Scarborough River will allow oysters to go from spat to a serving on the half shell more quickly.

"The oysters have been a really positive thing for the river, they clean it," Corbeau said.

The annual lease, which could be renewed automatically, would charge Carroll $420 annually to cover the estimated electricity costs to run the upweller.

Carroll first planted oyster beds near Seavey's Landing and the railroad bridge in 2010, using matured oysters bought from other farming operations in Maine. She has harvested mostly Virginicus, or American, oysters like those found in the Chesapeake Bay.

She has also had some success growing French belon oysters, but said they can require more intensive cultivation.

In her third year of farming, Carroll said she is optimistic she can raise enough oysters to serve customers throughout the year, and a Pine Point location will benefit the company by reducing travel time to Biddeford Pool.

“It will be nice to have the proximity to the farm,” Carroll said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.