EASTHAM — A two-acre aquaculture grant in Nauset Marsh that has gone largely untended for several years will be offered to new stewards.
At its April 5 meeting, the select board ended a three-year-long saga of inspections, extensions, and missed deadlines, voting 3-0 to revoke the commercial aquaculture license held by John Milliken, 66, and Brendan Adams, 40.
Board members Al Cestaro and Jared Collins recused themselves from the hearing and vote because they are both aquaculture grant holders.
“I wish he had gotten it cleaned up, and there was a lot to clean up,” said board member Art Autorino. “But I took a tour of the site and I just don’t have the impression it’s ever going to be a productive grant. So, I’m not in favor of continuing the license.”
The board had agreed at a March 22 hearing to give Milliken and Adams until April 1 to clean up their shellfishing area, aquaculture site N39, despite a recommendation from the town’s natural resources dept. that the pair’s license should be revoked.
“I’m nervous about approving anything without some very specific deadlines as to when things are going to be done,” Autorino had said at that hearing. It was he who recommended the April 1 deadline.
An inspection on April 1 found that “a fair amount of gear, including aquaculture bags, wood, rope, decaying rebar, plastic and old/ripped netting, was still present on the site,” Shellfish Constable Nicole Paine wrote in a report to the board.
“Sadly, it’s still quite a mess,” said select board member Aimee Eckman, who was present for the site inspection. “I know they have done some work, and there’s still a lot more work to do, because there’s a lot of equipment still buried out there.”
The site has been unused for the past five years, according to a report by Paine given to the board on March 18. At that point, Milliken and Adams had already failed to meet three deadlines for removing all unused or obsolete gear: the first was a Nov. 15, 2018 deadline requested by the natural resources dept.; it was followed by March deadlines in 2020 and 2021, set by the select board.
“It’s not personal against anybody,” Paine said at the March 22 hearing. “It’s just it needs to be cleaned up, it needs to be used, and it needs to be productive.”
Adams said in March that he and Milliken had intended to get to the cleanup earlier but had been delayed due to Covid-19.
“I’ve been busy doing daddy day care, and John has been hiding from Covid — he just got his shot last week, luckily,” said Adams. He then estimated there were about 100 baskets left on the grant that were unclipped, piled up, and “ready to come home.”
Adams said, “We’ve been clearing the grant off and we have seed out there that we intend to plant once the rest of the stuff is taken off.”
Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe noted that the grant holders would need to obtain a propagation permit before planting seed.
Neither Adams nor Milliken spoke at the April 5 online hearing at which their license was taken away from them.
“We have a long waiting list of people who are eager to get into the business of aquaculture,” said Eckman before the vote, “and I think it’s time we move on and give them a chance.”
According to Paine, Adams and Milliken have 60 days after the revocation to clean up the grant, after which the town can choose to take over the cleanup at the former licensees’ expense.