Municipal Participation in Aquaculture

Although the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has exclusive jurisdiction to lease and license coastal waters, the process affords municipalities with many opportunities to participate in the evaluation of those sites. Municipal input is sought at multiple points during the review of an application. Please carefully review the information below and contact the Aquaculture Division if you have any questions ( 

General Overview 

  • The information on this page is intended to help municipal officials effectively engage with the aquaculture leasing and licensing process. The content related to effective engagement is specific to municipal participation. For a more comprehensive overview of participation in the leasing process, please visit the Public Participation in Aquaculture webpage.

  • The page also contains aquaculture updates specific to municipal initiatives or municipal related correspondence that DMR has published. 

Opportunities to Provide Feedback 

At each processing milestone, municipalities are directly notified via email of every completed license or lease application in your town, public comment period, or public hearing. DMR's primary method of communication for direct notice is email. More information on the direct notice for each processing milestone that towns receive can be found below. 

Pre-Application Meeting:  DMR requires standard lease applicants to participate in a pre-application meeting before they submit the “draft application.”  The purpose of this meeting is for the applicant to present their proposed plan to the municipality and DMR. It is also an opportunity for the municipality and DMR to provide feedback on the applicant’s preliminary plans. DMR contacts the municipality to schedule the meeting with a municipal official, typically the harbormaster. Pre-application meetings are held Monday-Friday during business hours and conducted remotely via Teams or phone. 

Scoping Session:  After a draft standard lease application is deemed complete, applicants are responsible for holding a scoping session on their draft proposal. The scoping session is an opportunity for the applicant to present their proposal to the public and other stakeholders, including the municipality, prior to submitting a final application. Notice of scoping sessions is provided to the municipality. 

Harbormaster Questionnaire:  After every lease application is deemed complete (final applications for standard leases), DMR provides the municipality with direct notice.  The notice includes a Harbormaster Questionnaire (HMQ) for the Harbormaster or other municipal designee to complete. If the town has no harbormaster, then another municipal designee may complete the questionnaire. The HMQ requests local information about how the proposed site may affect navigation, fishing, and other considerations related to the lease decision criteria. It’s an opportunity for the municipality to provide additional feedback about the respective site prior to a final decision being rendered.  

Public Comments:  Certain types of proposals have comment periods. In those cases, the municipality is provided with direct notice of the opportunity to comment.  

Municipal Permissions - LPA: If an LPA is sited in five feet of water or less and the municipality has a shellfish management program in accordance with 12 M.R.S.A. §6671, then the signature of the chairperson of the committee or designated town officer is required on the application. Some municipalities have a shellfish program, but no committee. If that is the case, then a municipal official shall sign. The applicant is responsible for acquiring required signatures before submitting an application to DMR. 
Lease: If any portion of the proposed lease site is above mean low water, pursuant to 12 M.R.S.A. §6072(3), and the municipality has a shellfish conservation program under section 6671, it is the applicant’s responsibility to obtain consent for the proposed lease site from the municipal officers (i.e., the selectmen or councilors of the town, or the mayor and aldermen or councilors of a city) Consent means a majority vote of the municipal officers as recorded in a public meeting.

Hearing:  At a public hearing, municipal officials are given the opportunity to present testimony and evidence about the proposed lease site and decision criteria. Municipal official testimony is listed as an agenda item for each hearing with state and federal officials. Applicable testimony and evidence are also taken into consideration when evaluating a site. 

Registration for Hearing:  We request registration from all hearing participants, including municipal officials. Registration for municipalities is requested as a courtesy and municipal testimony is included in the hearing agenda separate from other stakeholders. The link to register for a hearing is posted on the hearing event and can be accessed through the DMR aquaculture homepage under upcoming meetings.  

Intervenor:  For leases that require a public hearing, the hearing notice will be provided to the municipality, which includes information on the opportunity to intervene or to provide testimony. A municipality is granted intervenor status upon written request, so the town/city does not need to complete an application. 

Final Decisions:  Notice of final decisions for license and lease applications are also sent directly to the municipality. Once a final decision is rendered that becomes the “final agency action” on the proposal for purposes of an appeal. The appeals process is handled in the court system. 

Effective Engagement 

The leasing and licensing process does not mandate or otherwise compel municipal participation. Municipalities have broad discretion in deciding whether and how they participate in the process.  For example, DMR is aware that some municipalities prefer to discuss proposals during select board meetings and then provide written feedback, to DMR, based on considerations raised during those meetings. Some communities have designated staff that participate in pre-application meetings, complete questionnaires, and are generally authorized to provide feedback on behalf of the municipality.  

DMR welcomes and encourages municipal feedback, because it provides local knowledge and perspective of how an area may be utilized. The most effective way to engage with the process is to provide feedback that is specific to applicable decision criteria. Each site is evaluated in consideration of decision criteria (available on our public participation webpage) and DMR cannot consider other factors such as general support or opposition to a specific proposal, community sentiment toward aquaculture generally, or other factors unrelated to the criteria.  

Active Aquaculture Sites 

A municipality (harbormaster, town clerk, selectman, etc.) may be the first point of contact for members of the public that have questions or concerns about an active aquaculture site(s) within the community. Unless the issue is an emergency, please feel free to refer stakeholders to the Aquaculture Division. The Aquaculture Division will answer questions about the leasing/licensing process and follow-up on complaints that are specific to the aquaculture site(s). The municipality should also contact the Aquaculture Division with any questions or concerns about active aquaculture sites within the community. The Aquaculture Division can be reached at or call our office using the Department's contact information page and search aquaculture.  

Documents and Links 

August 2022 Letter to Municipalities

October 2023 Letter to Municipalities

Municipal Engagement in the Leasing Process

Municipal Engagement in the LPA Licensing Process

Public Participation in Aquaculture webpage 

Pending Aquaculture Applications webpage