Clams get washed aboard a Frank M. Flower & Sons...

Clams get washed aboard a Frank M. Flower & Sons fishing boat in Oyster Bay in January. Credit: Barry Sloan

Oyster Bay has rejected proposals to license 800 acres of shellfishing beds in Oyster Bay Harbor, citing lack of tax information from the bidders.

The town received three bids in response to a request for proposals to replace a lease that expires in 2024 on the underwater land in the harbor.

"The reason why they were all rejected is because they all failed in a very specific requirement of the RFP, and that was to disclose and provide us with tax information," George Baptista, Oyster Bay deputy commissioner of environmental resources, said in an interview. "None of them were able to do that."

The town expects to receive more revenue from the licenses than it currently gets under a lease of 1,400 acres with commercial shellfishing company Frank M. Flower & Sons.

"We wanted to ensure that those people that made the proposal had the financial wherewithal to meet their obligation," Baptista said.

The town rejected the proposals last month. The RFP issued in June contemplated issuing licenses to multiple bidders and had divided the underwater land to be fished into six separate areas.

Baptista said the town is considering its next steps to possibly reissue the RFP.

"I don’t see a major revision to it," Baptista said. "I see a couple of tweaks to make it easier for everybody to comply with the provisions for the RFP, but exactly when it comes back, exactly what it’s going to look like, we’re still examining that now."

Friends of the Bay, an Oyster Bay nonprofit that advocates for environmental preservation of the harbor, said in a statement that the upside of the rejection was that town officials could create a bay management plan before making decisions on the future of large-scale commercial shellfishing.

"The bay management plan has to look at more than shellfishing and needs to be a science-based study that addresses the long-standing protection and health of the bay environment and looks at issues such as runoff, cesspools, development regulations, habitat loss," the statement said.

Baptista said the town’s bay management plan is being developed and could be finished within eight to 12 months.

The North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association, which represents independent shellfishermen, had submitted a bid to form a cooperative to license 250 acres, association president Bill Painter said in an interview. The association had opposed the RFP’s release because it didn’t address the issue of hydraulic dredging, which the group opposes.

"We thought the RFP wasn’t well thought out," Painter said. "It was basically one of these things that said ‘hey, give us your best idea and we’ll make a decision on it.’ "

Painter said financial information requested by the town didn’t make sense because there wasn’t a clear start date for the licenses and that if it began in 2024 any information provided now could be out of date by then.

James Cammarata, Oyster Bay-based attorney for Frank M. Flower & Sons, which submitted a bid to the RFP, wrote in an email that he could not comment because "I have not been provided with an answer as to why the town chose to reject the RFP responses."

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