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Presentation by Dr. George Kidder and Dr. Jane Disney

Lamoine Town Hall , May 14, 2008

In attendance: Seventeen, including: Selectman Chris Tadema-Wielandt (staffing the closed circuit television); Planning Board Member Mike Garrett; Conservation Commissioners Fred Stocking, LyndaTadema-Wielandt, Carol Korty, Annie Crisafulli, and Nancy Pochan.

Dr. Kidder, the Project Manager, presented a PowerPoint slideshow of the Eelgrass Restoration Project at Hadley Point, across from Berry Cove in Lamoine.

The Town of Bar Harbor received a grant for the Project from the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. Participants in the effort include the Town of Bar Harbor Marine Resources Committee , the MDI Biological Laboratory (where Dr. Kidder is Senior Scientist), The College of the Atlantic and its Summer Field Studies Program, The MDI Water Quality Coalition, Aquaculture Harvesters (a subsidiary of Great Eastern Mussel), Maine Mussel Harvesters Association and the Bagaduce Watershed Association.

Background : In 1996, the Maine Department of Marine Resources did an eelgrass survey. It showed extensive eelgrass beds throughout Taunton Bay and solid coverage from the eastern side of Hadley Point around the western end of Frenchman Bay and around Trenton and the Jordan River through both sides of Berry Cove. By 2006, the Frenchman Bay eelgrass beds were reduced to scattered plants and a good bed in the Jordan River . Eelgrass beds can be lost due to water pollution, which is unlikely to be the cause in upper Frenchman Bay , and by intensive bottom scarring from mussel dragging. The period after 1996 coincides with an intensification of mussel dragging in the area. This was particularly true in 2005 when red tide up and down the coast meant that many of the mussel draggers operating in Maine were in upper Frenchman Bay , which was not closed due to the red tide.

Why the Concern about Eelgrass? : Eelgrass beds are among the most productive plant communities on the planet. Eelgrass beds grow into a dense canopy that provides protection from predators and a rich food supply. Eelgrass beds are nurseries for flounder, cod and striped bass. Larval blue mussels and bay scallops settle on eelgrass leaves and juvenile lobsters burrow in eelgrass beds. Under a microscope, an eelgrass leaf is covered in organisms.

What the Eelgrass Restoration Project did : The initial steps were the usual chores of fundraising and organizing resources. After that came planning the action and getting permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Negotiation of a section of the Bay which would not be subject to mussel dragging or other disturbance was an important part of the process. The site chosen was on the west side of Hadley Point, offshore from a clam restoration project and inshore of an aquaculture site. That stretch of bottom was then scanned by camera to record the conditions prior to the project work.

Physical preparation involved preparing “grids” of lobster trap wire, weighted with two bricks per two foot square. The team of professional and volunteers then awaited favorable tides and harvested 1000 plants of eelgrass from the Jordan River . The bed there is so rich that there was no visual impact from removal of this quantity of plants.

The plants were then, during the rest of the harvesting day, tied to the grids, 20 per grid. Collection and most of the tieing were done on a vessel loaned by Great Eastern Mussel that has a large central tank that can keep the eelgrass in saltwater. A portion of the eelgrass was tied to grids by young students at the College of the Atlantic's Summer Field Studies program.

The next day, at the appropriate tide, the grids were dropped into the chosen area. The bricks on the grids hold the roots of the plants in the mud long enough to attach. Without the bricks the plants would simply go out with the next tide. Buoys marked the sites, but winter ice has taken most of these away. The grids were removed in May of this year, but this proved less than ideal, as many plants were growing up through the grids and were uprooted during the reclamation process. Taking the grids up is required by the Army Corps of Engineers permit. The scientists on the Project are considering whether there would be less damage if the grids were removed in the Fall or if some biodegradable grid material could be found.

Initial Results: When the grids were removed and the bottom scanned in May, there was eelgrass growing on the grid sites and not elsewhere. Eighty-four per cent of the grids were recovered. Twenty-five (46%) had eelgrass plants on or near the grid. The surrounding area, which had been protected from dragging and other disturbances, showed no signs of eelgrass plants. This is consistent with results from Taunton Bay indicating that once the eelgrass population has been seriously impacted, protection of the bottom alone will not bring the eelgrass back quickly.

Future challenges: Upper Frenchman Bay has generally had good water quality. The water is low in salinity, though not enough to affect eelgrass. This is primarily due to Northeast Creek, which drains into the Bay on the Island . The quality of the water of Northeast Creek may be degraded by the various housing developments planned for the area.

From notes taken by Fred Stocking, with invaluable corrections by Dr. Kidder.