The Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay is a relatively new County program, having been adopted by the Suffolk County Legislature in August 2009. The first Lease Application Cycle was implemented in January 2010; since that initial application cycle the County has held three additional lease application cycles, and anticipates having one application cycle per year with the application period beginning in January of each New Year.
The County estimates that it will take nine months to a year to complete the lease application process outlined below. However, unforeseen issues that may arise could delay this process for an undetermined amount of time. As the County has progressed through these first few application cycles, it was and is our goal, to improve this process and make it as efficient as possible.
Lease Program Participants
Leases from Suffolk County are required for the conduct of any type of shellfish cultivation in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay (excluding private oyster grant owners that cultivate oysters only). Eligible participants for commercial leases include private oyster grant owners (interested in growing species other than oysters) and applicants interested in obtaining either a 5- or 10-acre lease site; and applicants for non-commercial leases (municipalities, researchers, etc.)
All applicants must be at least 18 years of age and be able to provide a valid Social Security number and/or Federal Tax ID number.
Once an application period is established by the County, all applicants are required to attend a pre-application meeting with Department staff, prior to submitting their applications. Applications will not be accepted without having attended a pre-application meeting.
There will be an application fee of $100 for the initial lease; a lease renewal; relocation of the lease if not required by a governmental entity; expansion of lease acreage; and lease subletting or assignment.
Submission and Review of Application
All lease program participants must submit an application along with their application fee to the County during the application period established by the Department. The Department will review all applications received, and make a determination on applicant eligibility. Notification will be sent to each applicant, either informing them that their application was received and was complete; or requesting additional information be submitted.
Number of Leases Permitted
Applicants will be limited to a maximum of two new leases; second applications will only be considered when acreage is available and the demand for leases from “first time applicants” has been met. The number of leases that can be held may vary for private oyster grant owners who own multiple grant parcels.
Subsequent to the close of the lease application period, there is a mandatory 60-day public notice period during which the public, regulatory agencies and municipalities may submit written comments to the Department that pertain to the lease sites that were applied for under a given application cycle. All comments will be summarized and presented to the Aquaculture Lease Board (ALB).
Aquaculture Lease Board
The ALB will conduct two public meetings subsequent to the conclusion of the public notice period. During the first meeting of the ALB, all proposed lease sites which were applied for under a given application cycle will be presented for consideration from a regional perspective; and all comments received during the public notice period will be presented to the ALB. The public will also be given the opportunity to make any additional comments on the proposed lease sites at this meeting. Subsequent to this meeting, the ALB will conduct a second meeting, at a later date and time, to make a determination by majority vote on those lease sites that will be available for leasing; those lease sites that will be conditionally eligible, and those sites that will not be available for leasing, at this time.
For those sites that are determined to be conditionally eligible, the applicant must pay for conduct of a hard clam population survey to objectively determine the population density of hard clams on the lease site. The County, in consultation with the NYSDEC Bureau of Marine Resources, and Dr. Robert Cerrato, SoMAS at Stony Brook University, has developed a Hard Clam Productivity Survey Protocol, which must be followed by prospective lease applicants when conducting productivity surveys on sites that have been conditionally approved by the ALB. If the survey documents a hard clam density of 2.0 or more legal sized hard clams per square meter, the site in question cannot be leased.
Random Selection Process
Once the ALB has made a determination of each lease site's eligibility, it many be necessary for staff to conduct a Random Selection Process (RSP) to determine a priority order for issuing leases in a given application cycle. This will only occur if the number of leases applied for exceeds the acreage available under the annual acreage cap limit in a given lease cycle. The RSP that is used by the Department mirrors the process currently used by the NYSDEC in issuing commercial licenses and permits that are subject to limited entry pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) Section 13-0328. Given the fact the Department does not prevent multiple applicants from applying for the same lease sites, the Department will also use the RSP to decided the priority order which would give preference to one applicant seeking to lease a particular site that is identified in other lease applications. Click here for a description of the RSP.
Lease Requirements and Procedures
Site Location and Survey
All sites leased by Suffolk County will be located and will have a lease site boundary survey completed by a licensed land surveyor. Boundary survey maps showing lease plot boundaries and coordinates are made part of each lease agreement. All lease agreement and maps will be filed in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk.
Preparation of Lease Agreement
The Department will continue to process lease applications, work with the County land surveyor to finalize boundary survey maps, and prepare lease documents for execution. Prior to signing a lease agreement, all prospective leaseholders will be sent a draft of their lease agreement. It is important for each prospective leaseholder to take the opportunity to review this document and present any questions prior to their lease signing appointment. This lease agreement is non-negotiable and cannot be modified.
Annual Lease Rental Fee
The Annual Lease Rental Fee is $200 plus $5 per acre for each year of a 10-year lease (e.g., one 10-acre lease would cost $250 per year). For private oyster grants with lease overlays, the lease rental fee would be $200 per year.
Each prospective leaseholder will need to schedule and attend a lease signing appointment with Department staff to sign their lease documents in our office. A notary public will be present at the meeting to notarize lease documents. Subsequent to this lease signing appointment, leases will be reviewed and signed by a County attorney and the Planning Director, respectively. Upon final execution, leaseholders will be sent an original copy of their shellfish aquaculture lease agreement; and staff will file each executed lease agreement in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk.
Shellfish Permits and Marking Lease Boundaries/Equipment
Leaseholders must comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, and obtain all required federal and state regulatory permits. Leaseholders must also meet permit requirements, if any, pertaining to marking lease boundaries with appropriate buoys and identifying the location of shellfish aquaculture gear. All shellfish aquaculture gear, (i.e., cages, buoys, etc.), must be marked with the lessee’s name and lease plot identification number.
Leaseholder Annual Report
As per the shellfish aquaculture lease agreement, in order to maintain a lease, each leaseholder must submit a completed Leaseholder Annual Report form
to the Department, 30 days before their lease anniversary date (start of term), along with a payment of the annual lease rental fee and the SC Form 22, each year that they retain their lease with the County. The Leaseholder will also be required to submit this report 30 days before the termination or expiration of a lease, and prior to the approval of a lease renewal, assignment and sublease.