May 30, 2008

Sears Island - the mote in BDN's editorial eye.

It's a pleasure to see new editorial leadership at the Bangor Daily News, especially someone arising from the ranks of BDN's veteran beat reporters - Tom Groening. We'll miss seeing and talking to you at at Penobscot Bay events, Tom.

However, the editorial 'Saving Sears Island' shows that Tom and/or other BDN editors need a crash course in Sears Island issues and Penobscot Bay ecology. We strongly urge them to get that by coming to the June 6th Sears Island Teach-In outside the Congregational Church of Searsport. The church is simultaneously host to a meeting of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee. The two groups will doubtless mingle. The learning potential is tremendous. All are welcome! This means you, reader.

But let's get down to just one of the many brass tacks that makes reading the Bangor Daily News' editorial so painful.

The fundamental reason, the overriding purpose and need claimed for the port zoning plan is that building a port on Sears Island "may one day be deemed critical to Maine’s economic survival", as the editorial writer puts it.

Come now. The day that the change of use of any land, any location in Maine is truly "deemed critical to Maine's economic survival" it can and will be exploited for whatever that survival purpose is.

Whether it be a waterfront estate, a lobster dock or a natural island, if the state of Maine were in such dislocation that only a new container port plugged into her coast in a certain location would keep Mainers from ruin and anarchy, such a location would be speedily and rightly condemned, and those containers of economic salvation would shortly start flowing off on or off the ships.

The state of Maine will of course take care of its people should the need arise. It already has all the legal resources to do so. A fast track to let speculative investors rush in and build a needless port on Maine public land, despoiling the upper Bay region of its clean air and healthy marine environment while degrading an island of unparalleled and irreplaceable environmental quality and biodiversity - meanwhile squeezing every possible tax deferment or abatement from Maine taxpayers it can - does not benefit our region.

Speaking of 'economic survival', the mainstream scientific community of New England and the region's new creative economists will no doubt be willing to explain in great detail to JUPC members how building and operating a container port would itself threaten the 'economic survival' of the strong tourism, resort and fishing economies of the greater Penobscot Bay.

What or who will compensate commercial and recreational fishers? Summer camps and resorts? Those Mainers falling ill from asthma, which seems to follow closely behind container port construction elsewhere in the USA? All harmed by the new pollution, including invasives-rich ballast water and by lost critical nursery areas, that would follow from approving this port zone, and inciting some enterprising free marketeers to make a literal killing by building a container port, fouling the Penobscot Bay environment for a decade, then bailing out once the tax incentives decline. Leaving Maine the poorer for its pains.

The Port Baldacci plan for Sears Island, in closing, appears little more than a tawdry if carefully executed attempt to pave the way for global investors and port speculators to punch a briefly profitable new global trade port into the coast of Maine. Even if it ends up primarily as empty and virtually unused as the Estes Head port in Eastport, brainchild of Brian Nutter. Nutter was rewarded for the Eastport "port to nowhere" by being made head of the Maine Port Authority.

Now Brian, part of the JUPC, has come to our bay, and is busy promoting another needless port. Shall we listen to him? He's already set to move to yet another new port directorship - a major grain port on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana. What Sears Island and Penobscot Bay be like when he finally heads south?

In our next entry we'll take a look at BDN editors' comprehension of the ecology at stake, (and award them a D-).

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