Shocking but true, the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club under the leadership of Joan Saxe has endorsed the building of an industrial port on Sears Island - a natural island long a preservation jewel in Sierra Club's crown. (The area in green would be sacrificed to industry.)
Read A summary of the present and a historic record of the past Sears Island situation
How the Sierra Club - which almost singlehandedly prevented the creation of a port there in the 1990s, and again in 2004 - allows its Maine chapter to spend meeting after meeting debating with captains of industry and government officials at meetings of the Sears Island Planning Initiative, tamely acquiescing in converting a third of the 900 acre island into an industrial sacrifice zone, with dreadful consequences for downbay fisheries--has perplexed many.
Sierra Club re-founder David Brower must be spinning in his grave!
Maine Sierra Club member Ken Cline, whose legal wizardry saved the island from woodchip port-dom in the 90s, now hunkers down on Mount Desert Island, tending his student flock at COA. His powerful defiance of the collective furies of John McKernan, Angus King, Olympia Snowe and the global transportation industry in steadfast defence of Sears Island and Penobscot Bay now oddly damped to conspicuous silence.
Vivian Newman - toughest and smartest of them all, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club's National Marine Wildlife and Habitat Committee, frequent visitor to Sears Island, sworn to defend that which the Maine chapter's leader Joan Saxe has signed off a death warrant upon; seriously vexed by the direction things are going - Maybe she will rise to the occasion
One of the raisons d'etre for the Club's NMFWC is to "Build national and regional networks to support the work of chapters and groups on other coastal/marine issues as needed, including coastal development, shoreline erosion, ports and navigational dredging; provide information, technical assistance, and referrals."
That's what Sierra Club has always done, to the great benefit of Natre.
On July 18, 1994, the Sierra Club (and CLF) sued MDOT for violating the Clean Water Act in building the causeway, clearing land and filling wetlands on the island. A Consent Decree was signed three years later, on April 9, 1997. When the dust had settled, MDOT had been ordered to:
"restore 3.2 acres of wetlands at the cargo terminal site on Sears Island, restore and enhance a 0.75 acre wetland on south-central Sears Island, provide streambank stabilization and wetlands enhancement at Dyer Creek in North Newcastle, Maine, and expend at least $100,000 on the acquisition and conservation of Atlantic Salmon habitat on the Ducktrap River." Note: the final consent agreement item, protecting Ducktrap River salmon habitat was recently met.
Sierra Club's national magazine touted the protection of Sears Island as "A wetland win" The club's then-president J. Robert Cox wrote:
"Combatting the Maine Department of Transportation's plans to build a cargo port at Sears Island made the last 13 years busy ones for Maine Sierra Club activists. Though the 940-acre island in Penobscot Bay provided habitat for 70 percent of the state's wetland species as well as an important flyway for neotropical birds, the agency rejected an alternative site at industrialized Mack Point. The agency flouted environmental law by neglecting to prepare an environmental impact statement and then, when forced by a Sierra Club lawsuit, delivered an EIS that ignored 200 acres of freshwater wetlands on the island. Each time the agency submitted redesigns for the port, Sierra Club lawsuits showed them to be inadequate. Club activists rejoiced when the Army Corps of Engineers finally rejected the project this February."
Is there rejoicing now among club activists? No? Why not?
The Maine Chapter's first statement this latest go-round on Sears Island, titled
“Preservation and Port: a Recipe for Prosperity is on their website
The statement starts off well, noting
"The Sears Island Planning Initiative is uniquely charged by the Baldacci Administration with developing recommendations for the future use of the 940-acre island in Penobscot Bay. If implemented, the recommendations could end thirty years of public controversy."
It continues by calling for "permanently protecting Sears Island as an educational and recreational asset", while encouraging "full utilization of Mack Point, using best available management practices, to address the financial needs of Searsport and its transportation connections with Central and Northern Maine. "
Again it states "that the entirety of Sears Island be conserved, and that trails and management facilities be improved to fulfill its future as a regional ecotourism asset, also supporting the local economy."
The statement closes with a flourish: "The Port supported; the Island protected -- A Win/Win scenario."
Current economic and shipping information indicates that Mack Point has the potential to satisfy all marine transportation needs of Maine’s central region for the foreseeable future.
In bland sprawl-speak the Maine Chapter describes its position on Sears Island thusly:
"In a win/win scenario for jobs and preservation, participants in the Sears Island Planning Initiative announced their proposal Preservation and Port: a Recipe for Prosperity." (rtf file)
What?... Hello.....? Sierra Club?