Sep 12, 2007

Public criticises Cianbro plan to dump Brewer dredge spoils into Penobscot Bay

Dredge 'n dump meeting at Rockland Middle School thronged; industry reps present, lobstermen glare, agencies filibuster, environmentalists fume.

At a meeting sponsored by the Maine Department of Marine Resources
lobstermen and environmentalists challenged the proposal by Cianbro and an unnamed corporate partner to dredge mud and woody debris from Penobscot River bottom adjacent to the defunct Eastern Fine Paper site in Brewer , as part of setting up and operating an industrial module producing plan on the site. News coverage... more media coverage___even more media coverage

The Cianbro Company is partnered with unnamed investors to build and operate an industrial module assembly facility that would import parts from other states and nations, assemble them, then shipping out the completed "industrial modules" to be put together onsite . "Like erector sets" the company rep said.

Cianbro and its partners say they want to move quickly and be assembling these modules 12 months from now.

Fishermen and conservationists at the meeting lobbied hard for a total upland disposal option be substituted for bay dumping at the Rockland Disposal Site.

Two petitions were sent or given to DMR, one calling for a public hearing and one expressing the concern of dozens of bay area citizens who would be affected. DMR claimed that the public information meeting being held, was adequate ; I objected, citing the plain language of MRSA 38 480-D(9) Dredging. (scroll down to (9) the statutory chapter and verse.

The meeting was about 1 & 1/2 hours long. At the head tables, (speaking mostly in that annoying sotte voce used by midlevel officials at such interagency public meetings) were two DEPers: the permit reviewer and the DEP marine ecologist; in the middle: DMR's Brian Swan. On the other side sat the Cianbro representatives including Parker Hadlock, with experience in port building and renovation in Portland, who will be the project manager for the project, which will build by-request modular machines for global big industry. Army Corps of Engineers' Shawn Mahaney sat in the back of the audience, occasionally fielding RFI's from the state and industry reps up front.

An enviro/chem consultant for Cianbro sat quietly in the front row, saying little, and that little with awesomely developed pass-the-buck skill.

Maine Lobstermens' Association President Dave Cousens was in the second row with several lieutenants and a row or two of Vinalhaven lobstermen with families. Lobstermen pushed for schedule change to minimize interference iwth autumn fishery, questioned the toxicity information and opposed damaging their industry to better another one; Sierra Club's Vivian Newman questioned the jobs projections, (she came in about 45 minutes in.) The Lobster Conservancy voiced concerns over toxicity and the smothering of lobsters, the Lower Penobscot Watershed Association advised, the Island Institute rep spoke; Hannah Pingree gave a lengthy statement recapping the fishermens' concerns.

Posters on easels: an 1880s architect's drawing of a chlorine-using paper mill filling the same local footprint. It showed two docks operating back then: one for shipping materials and paper, one labeled "coal dock" (gotta be a lot of coal down there). A nav chart of Penobscot Bay with the east and west l shipping lanes highlighted, a chart tabulating of toxics findings of sediment cores.

The Pitch
Cianbrorep was enthused about re-using this old riverside industrial site in Brewer , providing good paying jobs non-polluting industy since it is only assembly of parts coming in, completed industrial modules going out. If approved, the facility's first project, that they have already been awarded the contract to build, will be sent to some facility near or in the Gulf of Mexico in October 2008. Although they wouldn't identify even potential clients, in general the operation will custom build large complete modular industrial plants of all types. These will then be barged to distant seaports whence they are taken to whatever Mordor-ian industrial facility awaits the instant industrial plant.

Confronted on the non-transparency of their process to date, agency faces were red. Clearly they would rather not have a further public hearing. Maine DEP's permit reviewer announced that the public comment period was over, but finally bent to some pressure to accept public comment to the end of the month.

Fishermen have been trying for years to have the bay dump site permanently closed.
A lobsterman said it was known to be a terrible location for a dump due to the vigorous currents that have sent the spoils spreading across the bay. Fifty years of dumping there and the bottom is still flat, he noted.

First dredging act will be removal of 'windrows of wood' on the river floor. Divers have examined it. Then about 1/2 of the total amount of mud and sand spoils that they would be licensed to discharge they are allowed to.
They may or may not use the train (RR tracks run past the site.)

Many more details, soon.

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