Apr 7, 2007

Rockland Breakwater - DEP's draft denial and the final comment countdown!

It's only four days until the Maine DEP pounds the last nail into the coffee of the undead Samoset Pier. Help them swing the mallet by sending them your comments by close of business April 11, 2007. Email them to
James.Cassida(AT)maine.gov Use subject line: Samorock Pier application.

Below is an article by Melissa Waterman from the latest issue of Free Press Online summing up where things stand. Let Jim know that the pier would unacceptably and permanently degrade the water quality of the lobster-rich ecosystem of the northern end of Rockland Harbor.

DEP Issues Draft Denial of Samoset’s Pier Application
— by Melissa Waterman

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a preliminary denial of Samoset Resort’s application to construct a 12-foot-wide, 550-foot wooden pier, 50-foot ramp and 140-float system off its property in Rockland. According to Jim Cassida, Licensing Coordinator within the Bureau of Land and Water Quality in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, “This is a draft denial, typical in larger projects. It allows all interested parties to review and comment. It’s the final opportunity for the applicant to overcome the objections contained in the draft denial.”

At the request of Samorock LLC, which owns the Samoset, DEP has extended the comment period on the draft to April 11. A final decision will not be issued until some time after that comment period is over. Appeals of final decisions go to the Board of Environmental Protection. “It is rare for an appeal to happen, but I fully expect an appeal in this case,” said Cassida.

The draft denial concluded that the proposed activity would “unreasonably interfere with existing scenic, aesthetic, recreational, and navigational uses,” and “would unreasonably harm a significant wildlife habitat.”

Following are excerpts from the findings in the preliminary denial:

“After reviewing the evidence in the record and viewing the project site, the Department finds that there is at least one practicable alternative to the project that would be less damaging to the environment. In particular, the applicant could use the existing marina facilities within Rockland Harbor as well as their existing ramp and float located on the breakwater. The applicant could provide a shuttle service to the marina facilities within Rockland Harbor and a harbor shuttle to transport residents and guests of the Samoset Resort to and from their boats located on a mooring within the established mooring area in Rockland Harbor.… Given that the construction of the proposed pier, ramp and float would result in a permanent loss of wetland area, as well as additional impacts to the wetland; and that the applicant has access to the water through existing marina facilities within close proximity to the development site, the Department finds that the applicant has not adequately demonstrated avoidance of impacts to the coastal wetland....

“IF&W [Inland Fisheries & Wildlife] stated that the construction of a pier, ramp and float system at this location will result in a loss of habitat functions and values. However, IF&W views that loss of habitat functions and values as not having an unreasonable impact to wildlife habitat.... The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) commented that some loss of habitat functions and values may occur through displacement of the traditional lobster fishing area. However, DMR concluded that the proposal for a pier at this location would not have an unreasonable adverse impact on marine habitat.... Given that the construction of the proposed pier would result in a loss of habitat functions and value; and that the applicant has boating access to the water through its already existing structure and could have access through facilities within the Rockland anchorage, the Department finds that the applicant has not adequately demonstrated avoidance of impacts to marine wildlife and fisheries habitat.”

“…The Department has determined that two of the scenic vistas examined will be significantly adversely affected through construction of the proposed 740-foot pier, ramp and float. The scenic impact will occur to views from the Marie H. Reed Memorial Park, which serves as the primary access point for the public to the Rockland breakwater and the harbor/beach area at the base of the proposed pier....

“In consideration of these criteria the Department finds that the applicant has failed to demonstrate that the proposed pier, ramp and float will not dominate the landscape from the public viewpoint at both Marie H. Reed Park and the beach/harbor area at the base of the proposed pier structure. For the users of the coastal wetland, such as people walking along the intertidal area, and boaters, the pier would be a significant visual intrusion, traversing the entire width of the intertidal area. While persons walking the intertidal area would be able to pass beneath the dock, the dock would dominate the landscape and partially obstruct and/or fragment the view along the intertidal area towards the Rockland breakwater and across Rockland Harbor, significantly detracting from the visual and aesthetic quality of the resource and thereby interfering with this use of the coastal wetland. Additionally, the proposed pier, ramp and float will displace some traditional fishing area resulting in an impact on this traditional use and navigation within this portion of Rockland Harbor.”

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