Commercial aquaculture operations in 10 North Carolina counties are eligible for grants to help them recover from damages and losses caused by Hurricane Ophelia in 2005.

The grants are available to producers who are raising aquaculture species in a controlled environment as part of a farming operation. Marine aquaculture, which includes shellfish leases, is also eligible.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is administering the 2006 Aquaculture Block Grant program from funds made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A total of $312,500 has been approved for the program. Eligible counties include Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender. USDA limits the amount paid to any applicant to $80,000. The grants will not cover damage or losses that are covered by another disaster program.

“We have been actively working with our representatives at the federal level to obtain funding to help aquaculture producers with Ophelia damage, and I am pleased those efforts have paid off with this block grant,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We will work as quickly as possible to process and verify these claims, so we can get these funds to producers to help with recovery efforts.”

Eligible producers can request an application form by contacting Yvonne Stott at (919) 733-7887 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Forms also can be downloaded or picked up at Division of Marine Fisheries regional offices.

The deadline for applications is July 15. Completed forms should be mailed to North Carolina Aquaculture Block Grant Program c/o Yvonne Stott, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1020.

Once applications are received, producers will be contacted by NCDA&CS staff to schedule a meeting to discuss the claim in more detail. Inventory records, receipts for equipment purchased and copies of aquaculture licenses will be helpful for producers to help verify claims.