Rhode Island on guard against invasive, damaging lanternfly

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Islanders should be on the lookout for a brightly colored invasive insect that could threaten trees and crops.

The spotted lanternfly has been found in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and state environmental officials said Friday it may only be a matter of time before it turns up in the Ocean State.

Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly feeds on maple, walnut and willow trees and crops such as grapes, apples and hops.

Experts from the state’s Department of Environmental Management and University of Rhode Island are surveying vineyards and other areas that might attract the insect. Of particular interest: an invasive tree known as the “tree of heaven” that is a favorite host for the lanternfly.

“In Rhode Island, more than 800 acres of agricultural lands including vineyards, orchards and berry farms are at risk,” said Cynthia Kwolek, a state environmental expert working on the survey.

Adults boast spotted wings with bright scarlet underwings and yellow marks on its abdomen. The state says the inch-long insects are active from August until the first hard freeze of the fall.

Rhode Islanders are encouraged to inspect outdoor furniture and firewood for lanternflies or their eggs, and to report sightings to the Department of Environmental Management.

Some of Maine’s farm fairs try to salvage season

FRYEBURG, Maine — Summer and fall in Maine are normally a time of pig races, demolition derbies and piles of fried food at the state’s agriculture fairs.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted that, as all 26 fairs canceled. That included fairs ranging from the Bangor State Fair, which typically attracts about 50,000 people, to the Houlton Fair, which takes place astride the Canadian border.

Some of the events have tried to salvage the season with virtual versions. The state would ordinarily be gearing up for the Fryeburg Fair, which dates to 1851, and employs hundreds of people in western Maine. The event is moving online this year from Oct. 4 to 11.

Even the fair’s cow impersonating event, called “Moo-La-Palooza,” is moving online.

“Our first priority is to protect the health and safety of our community, as well as the thousands of visitors who come to our rural town and fairgrounds each year,” fair organizers said in a statement.

The Common Ground Country Fair, which is the state’s annual celebration of organic farming and rural living, moved online in September. The fair usually includes in-person seminars.

Moving the fair online was difficult, but it allowed it to happen at all, said organizers with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, which puts on the event. The online version stayed true to the event’s quirky traditions with streaming content about how to track wildlife and make food from invasive plants.

The fairs hope to be back next year. Fryeburg Fair organizers have already booked a week in October 2021.

$500M aquaculture plant nears finish line but lawsuit looms

BELFAST, Maine -- A nearly three-year effort to build a land-based salmon facility in Belfast is nearing the finish line, unless a judge rules against the company in a dispute over ownership of the intertidal zone.

Nordic Aquafarms executives remain hopeful the company can soon move forward with its $500 million project.

In September, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection approved draft water, air and land permits for the project. The board is expected to issue the final permits after a comment period.

But two land-use lawsuits pending in Waldo County Superior and U.S. District courts based on a 1946 land-sale agreement is the last - and best - hope for opponents who want to stop the project, the Bangor Daily News reported.

At dispute is who owns the sliver of intertid al zone where Nordic wants to bury its intake and outfall pipes.

A judge’s ruling could force Nordic to find another path to the bay, thereby slowing or potentially stopping the project.

Marianne Naess, executive vice president of commercial for Nordic, said the company isn’t going to give in to opponents’ delay tactics.

“’Delay till they go away,’” she said. “But we’re in it for the long run.”

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