Flood Closure Procedure - By DMR Scientist Erick Schaefer and Public Health Bureau Director Kohl Kanwit
In the event that heavy rainfall occurs, a decision must be made to determine if a widespread emergency closure of shellfish harvesting areas is necessary due to degraded water quality resulting from runoff. The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) may enact emergency flood closures during storm events of two inches (2") or more of rain in 24 hours or less.
The decision to close shellfish areas is based on many factors, but relies on the underlying premise that a lot of rain in a relatively short period of time can negatively impact water quality and therefore the safety of bivalve shellfish by transporting land source pollution through storm water runoff.
Assigned DMR staff members utilize weather reporting stations online in order to determine rainfall amounts by region. DMR also has a pollution reporting hotline and automated website that rain gauge monitoring volunteers call/use to report rainfall totals.
In the event that the determination has been made to make an emergency closure for all or part of the state, a senior DMR staff member delineates the closure to encompass the affected region. A legal notice is drafted with a map representing the closure which is then posted online and emailed to the DMR interested parties list. To receive closure and reopening notices directly by email, click on the red envelope icon at the bottom of the Maine DMR homepage.
Closures are confined, whenever possible to approximately four hours before the low tide and four hours after the low tide, in order to allow harvest of shellfish not yet impacted by the rain event and to prevent unnecessary enforcement actions. Emergency flood closures are made at all times of day or night so it is important harvesters check the DMR website or call the hotline (1-800-232-4733) before they go out on the flats.