Washington, DC — The Maine Department of Transportation wants to turn Sears Island in Penobscot Bay into a cargo container port, according to an agency scenario released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under the plan, more than a third of the largest uninhabited island on the Eastern Seaboard would be paved over. The rest of the island would be used as a “mitigation bank” to facilitate wetlands destruction in other parts of the state. See Maine DOT's 2008 sales prospectus for Sears Island! (20 page pdf)
“Carving up Sears Island was a bad idea a decade ago and is even a worse idea now,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist and lawyer who formerly worked for the EPA, noting that the DOT Prospectus brags that “protection of parts of Sears Island would add a significant jewel” to Maine’s conservation efforts. “If protecting ‘parts’ of Sears Island would add a jewel, saving all of Sears Island would be like appending the Hope Diamond.”
A mitigation credit bank allows developers to buy the right to fill in naturally functioning wetlands by purchasing the promise of the creation or restoration of wetlands elsewhere. In the case of Sears Island, DOT proposes that some lands be saved only in exchange for the destruction of wetlands elsewhere in the state. In addition, there are big questions about whether Sears Island could function as a mitigation bank.
“Offering Sears Island up for a wetland mitigation bank does not even pass the straight face test when the only restoration opportunities on the island consist of two sites, totaling three-eighths of an acre,” Bennett added. “The Governor of Maine should put an end to these ridiculous development scenarios and save Sears Island once and for all.”Read Full article