Four years is a long time to wait for a permit.
That was the complaint that led to a meeting Thursday of shellfish farmers in Noank and the state administrators who oversee the permitting agencies.
Groton Town Councilor Harry Watson set the meeting up, so all involved could have a civilized conversation about it. "Great things happen when people get together and talk about things in a civil manner," he said.
And so an understanding was reached. But not before a few choice words.
“I’m not willing to accept delay any longer for any (expletive) reason,” said State Sen. Andrew Maynard.
Jim Markow, co-owner of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative, said he applied in 2007 to run a wet storage facility to hold oysters. Markow said he wanted the facility so he could harvest oysters, hold them, and keep sales going after big rain, when waters are sometimes closed for weeks due to runoff and bacteria.
The cooperative spent $50,000 building the facility, Markow said.
It’s still waiting for the permit.
Meanwhile, about a year later, Steve Plant, owner of Connecticut Cultured Oysters, applied for a change in water classification so he could harvest oysters closer to shore. He’s also still waiting.
The problem, the shellfish farmers said, is everytime they think they've collected enough data to satisfy the state, they're told there's something else they need. Meanwhile, they're trying to run a business and survive.
“I just want to know that there’s not another hoop we need to jump through,” said Karen Rivara, co-owner of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative, whose members who raise mostly oysters.
“Spending money with no end in sight as a business is pretty difficult to do,” Markow said. He said he hired an employee who’s now looking for other work because she doesn’t have enough to do.
Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said agriculture is his priority, the state supports shellfish growing and it has grants available to help farmers. But he said it also a responsibility to ensure public health and safety.
David Carey, Director of the Department's Bureau of Aquaculture, said the report seeking a new water designation for shellfish farming closer to shore in Noank was deficient.
He said the bureau must also still determine how and whether sewage treatment plants in the area affect the water. Carey said his office is short-staffed, with one microbiologist to do all the testing.
Maynard said he’d get the department another microbiologist, he'd guarantee it.
He also asked for the full list, in writing, of what the business owners need to do successfully apply for permits. He said he couldn't watch them languish anymore.
“I want to see the results,” he said.