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Brunswick tightens rules for New Meadows quahog harvesters

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Brunswick tightens rules for New Meadows quahog harvesters

BRUNSWICK — Quahog fishermen boring into the ice on the New Meadows "lakes" will have to begin fencing off the holes, thanks to an emergency ordinance passed by the Town Council on Monday.

And speaking of ice, the council unanimously supported a proposal that could result in a new skating rink at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The council's vote requiring quahog fishermen to guard ice holes comes amid what Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux described as a quahog gold rush on the northern tip of the New Meadows watershed.

Over the last six months, the area has attracted clammers hoping to harvest a bounty of quahog clams. Management officials opened the area to clamming for the first time in 10 years last summer. 

According to Devereaux, harvesting activity was initially limited to a handful of clammers. Now, he said, there can be as many as 17 boats and 29 clammers on the small lake at any given time.

The lake is now iced over, but the harvesting has continued with fishermen drilling into the ice and lowering rakes into the holes to scoop up clams.

Devereaux said the holes have created a safety issue for snowmobilers and other fishermen because many aren't marked or fenced off.

"It's unfortunate that we have to legislate common sense," Devereaux said. "Half of the (clammers) do it, but the other half don't."

The new ordinance requires clammers to rope off the perimeter of holes wider than 1.5 feet or longer than 4.5 feet with stakes and flourescent safety tape.

Fishermen who don't comply could face $100 fines, or more for repeat offenses, Devereaux said.

The emergency ordinance will impact clammers on the Brunswick side of the New Meadows. The council will hold a public hearing on March 1 before voting to make the ordinance permanent.

Devereaux indicated that the West Bath Board of Selectmen would soon be considering a similar provision.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to subdivide four acres of an 18-acre parcel at BNAS for a skating rink.

Although the property is owned by the U.S. Navy, it's expected to be conveyed to the town through a public benefit, no-cost transfer after the base closes in 2011.

The council's vote would effectively reduce the town's public benefit request to 14 acres, thereby allowing Community Ice to lease four acres from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and build an ice rink.

The proposal is contingent on Community Ice's ability to fund and sustain construction and operations of the rink. The group is planning to present a feasibility study to MRRA that will contain the cost of building and running the rink, both of which are not yet known.

The proposed rink would be near an existing field house that the town is expected to receive from the Navy. Proponents said the rink would create additional ice time for local teams, plus restore family skating hours. Although some of that activity occurs at Bowdoin College's new Watson Arena, rink time is limited.

Town Manager Gary Brown told the council that the land would be returned to the town if the proposal fails.

The council also set a March 1 public hearing for a proposed road acceptance ordinance. The provision would create construction and engineering guidelines for roads that could be taken over by the town.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net.

Photo: Paul Cunningham
John McMullen, Brunswick's deputy clam warden, posts a warning at New Meadows on Tuesday about the town's new requirement that quahog harvesters mark their ice holes.