BRUNSWICK — The Marine Resource Committee took no action Wednesday regarding the proposed reopening of Simpson’s Point Boat Launch after a marine expert painted a dire picture of the area’s eelgrass habitat.
A debate has emerged between current recreational users and past commercial users of the Middle Bay boat launch after a 2012 eelgrass study of the area spurred the committee to consider opening the landing to motorized boats again.
At the committee’s Wednesday night meeting, MER Assessment President Chris Heinig discussed the 2012 eelgrass monitoring report and how eelgrass has declined in the area, even after Simpson’s Point was closed in 2008.
“Over the course of years, we documented and we have the video … that shows the steady decline annually,” he said.
Heinig then outlined the results of a recently finished 2013 study that shows the eelgrass decline has gotten even worse.
“Everywhere that we looked, there is no eelgrass left at Simpson’s Point,” he said.
Simpson’s Point’s closure was seen as a way to mitigate the impact motorized vessels may have on the area’s eelgrass habitat when the larger Mere Point Boat Launch opened a few miles away.
Heinig clarified that despite the findings of his 2012 study, motorized vessels can still have an impact on eelgrass beds.
“The reason why I said the decline that we’re observing has nothing to do with outboard motors was because Simpson’s Point had already been closed to access by outboard motor vessels,” Heinig said. “So they couldn’t be the reason. It had to be something else.”
Despite the dire situation, the marine expert said the town could possibly negotiate with the state Department of Environmental Protection to open Simpson’s Point to vessels during the fall and winter months if passage were restricted to areas without eelgrass.
After committee chairman Mark Latti asked if committee members had any other comments about Heinig’s presentation, only one responded.
“I think we just note that it’s not a pretty situation,” a committee member said. “I don’t think we have enough of the pieces together to even know what we are even thinking about recommending.”