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Baymen's group opposes Oyster Bay accepting bids for shellfishing rights

An organization of independent shellfishers has alleged that Oyster Bay cannot accept bids for shellfishing rights until the town completes an environmental review, according to a letter sent by their attorney.

The town’s Department of Environmental Resources is “constrained from accepting bids as the department has failed to conduct a required environmental review pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act,” North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association’s attorney Darrin Berger wrote in a letter last week to town officials. Berger wrote that the town request for proposals issued earlier this month for licenses for shellfishing rights on 800 acres of underwater lands in Oyster Bay harbor beginning in 2024 is “likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment” and thus requires the review, Berger wrote.

George Baptista Jr., Oyster Bay deputy commissioner for the environment, said in a statement Wednesday that the review was not required before the bidding was opened up.

“The subject request for proposals in no way commits the agency to a course of action; therefore it is clearly not an action subject to SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review] at this time,” Baptista said. “When a proposal is developed and presented for a decision, potential environmental impacts will be evaluated in accordance with SEQR prior to an approval” by the town board.

Berger wrote in his letter that an environmental review after bids were received would not permit sufficient public input.

The licenses are intended to succeed a 30-year lease of about 1,400 acres of underwater land in the harbor to private shellfishing company Frank M. Flower & Sons. The lease expires in 2024.

James Cammarata, attorney for Frank M. Flower, said Wednesday that the state environmental review was not required because the aquaculture permitting process is under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Cammarata said the company is reviewing the RFP and plans to submit a bid.

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