Feb 6, 2008

Sears Island: state trying to avoid Section 4(f) future EIS on latest cargoport proposal?

Under the Sears Island Planning Initiative,
Maine DOT has a fast paced stakeholder process going the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee (SIJUPC) a group of citizens and public and commercial interests brought together to develop a long-term plan for Sears Island. Skillfully railroa__....err...managed by the agency, its allies and the facilitator, the planning committee could swiftly finalize a proposal for the island's bifurcation into port industrial zone and conservation zone, avoiding repetition of the 1990s struggle for and against a port there.

So the last thing MDOT wants right now is to have to shell out to hire consultants to prepare an environmental impact statement that could take years to finalize, describing the likely effects of port construction. Especially since during that last go round, Angus King had to order Maine DOT to pull its application for an island port once it proved to the Army Corps of Engineers it could not compensate for the damage it would cause to the land and nearshore ecology and environment of Sears Island.

Flash forward to the present. Beginning February 8th Four meetings of the JUPC are scheduled : Feb 8th and 15th, and March 14th and 29th. All are open to the public and have time specifically set aside for members of the public to make statements.

Friday, February 8, meeting of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee at the First Congregational Church, 8 Church Street, Searsport from Noon to 3pm.

In the minutes of the last JUPC meeting, the Joint Use Planning Committee decided that MCHT's application to steward the island meets its standards for consideration. The next step, the wording of an easement agreement. Ciona Ulbrich, a staffer of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust) said MCHT would be working with the Committee to draft this document.

JUPC also pondered a federal transportation law 49 U.S.C. 303, Policy on lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites. Commonly called called Section 4(f).

A review of a large transportation related project proposal under Section 4(f) either triggers or doesn't trigger the need for a thorough EIS type study of the damage a major transportation project could have on the scenic, historic and archaeologic and wildlife resources.
See full law below the membership list of the Joint Use planning Committee:

Membership of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee,
(as of July 5, 2007..Some changes may have occurred)

Government
David Cole, Commissioner, Maine DOT
Rosaire Pelletier, Maine Department of Conservation
Eliza Townsend, Deputy Commissioner, Maine Department of Conservation
Sara Bradford, First Selectman, Town of Stockton Springs
James Gillway, Town Manager, Town of Searsport

Conservation
Scott Dickerson, Executive Director, Coastal Mountains Land Trust
Jim Freeman, President, Friends of Sears Island
Steve Miller, Islesboro Island Land Trust
Joan Saxe, Sierra Club
Dianne Smith, Chair, Sears Island Alternative Use Committee

Industry
Robert Grindrod, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway
Sandy Blitz, EMDC; Exec. Dir. East-West Highway Assn.
Bob Ziegelaar, Telford Group

Local residents
Anne Crimaudo, Searsport
Bruce Probert, Searsport

Alternates:
Becky Bartovics, Penobscot Bay Alliance
James Therriault, Sprague Energy

A short but important federal transportation law:

49 U.S.C. 303, Policy on lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.

"It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States Government that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.

49 U.S.C. 303(b)
The Secretary of Transportation shall cooperate and consult
with the Secretaries of the Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, and with the States, in developing transportation plans and programs that include measures to maintain or enhance the natural beauty of lands crossed by transportation activities or facilities.

49 U.S.C. 303(c) The Secretary may approve a transportation program or project (other than any project for a park road or parkway under section 204 of title 23) [of the United States Code, “Federal Lands Highways Program”] requiring the use of publicly owned land of a public park, recreation area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national, State, or local significance, or land of an historic site of national, State, or local significance (as determined by Federal, State, or local officials having jurisdiction over the park, area, refuge, or site) only if—

(1) there is no prudent and feasible alternative to using
that land; and (2) the program or project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the park, recreation area, wildlife and waterfowl refuge, or historic site resulting from the use."
End of statute

(Emphasis added)


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