Jan 19, 2008

LURC asks: Can Plum Creek build without polluting water? State Agencies: NO


Officials from three of Maine's resource agencies expressed doubt
Friday that the Plum Creek resort development proposal could be built
and operated without significantly degrading the region's environment.
Representatives of the Maine Natural Areas Program, Inland Fish and
Wildlife and Department of Environmental Protection testified and fielded questions at a public hearing of the Land Use Regulatory Commission.

The agencies were, like federal agencies US Fish and Wildlife Service and US EPA, turning out to be visibly reluctant to endorse Plum Creek's plans.

Representatives of NRCM, Maine Audubon and Native Forest Network and
other groups carried out cross examinations and testified at the
meeting.

Officials from IF&W said Plum Creeks proposed easement fails to
offset its resort and condo development, and recommended Plum Creek be barred from any development on the shoreline of Indian Pond and expressed concerns about development in deer yards around Burnham Pond.

The Maine Natural Areas Program told the Commissioners that Plum
Creek's plan won't adequately deal with potential exotic species impacts of both land and water resources.

Maine DEP Watershed Planner Jeff Dennis 287-7847 told the Land Use
Regulatory Commission Friday that Plum Creek's current rezoning
proposal could not be approved without significantly degrading the
water quality of Moosehead Lake and neighboring streams and ponds
within the proposed resorts and condos area.

Dennis said the would-be developer proposes to avoid polluting the
lakes, ponds and streams of the area using "thousand of buffer ones
that are being relied on to meet these standards."

Shown here speaking with NFN after the hearing, Dennison warned that unless carefully maintained, buffers will not carry out their functions. LURC and Plum Creek would have to come up with a strategy that would ensure each of the thousands of buffers be regularly inspected. "The challenge for LURC", Dennis noted, "is that this is scattered all over the landscape," adding that the extensive underground drainage system Plum Creek has proposed would also need regular maintenance to prevent from failing.

The Department's experience with other developers using buffers is
that not only are they frequently not maintained but "we know that
there are buffer violations," such as homeowners cutting down trees
in a buffer to improve the view from their vacation homes.

One LURC Commissioner noted that LURC had recently approved a 900
resort unit addition to Saddleback Mountain Resort in Rangely. Was
that a Class A water shed? he wondered. Given the information coming
from Maine DEP now, "I'm not sure why we voted to approve that."

NFN's Ron Huber cross-examined Plum Creek consultant Frederick
Kirchies, asking what sources he used to determine that there would
be no adverse impacts to the shallow waters near the shoreline of the
lakes and ponds within Plum Creek's development zone.

Kirchies, who had already acknowledged to an earlier cross-examiner
that much of the information he submitted was up to half a century
old, said he had not carried out any of the field work examining the
shallow waters, but had relied on verbal assurances from persons
familiar with the waterbodies to reach his conclusion that none of the
developments on any of the ponds or lakes would have any adverse
impacts at all.

"Nothing written? Nothing on the record?" Huber asked. Kirchies said
no. In response to queries from LURC, several state agency reps
suggested that the only way Plum Creek could avoid adversely
affecting the environment inside its development area would be by
allowing degradation of its proposed adjacent conservation areas.
This, it was noted would partly defeat the purpose of the
conservation areas.

The LURC Commission meets again to discuss the Plum Creek proposal on
Saturday in Greenville.

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