Aug 17, 2009

Is Montreal Maine & Atlantic shedding branch lines in prep of planned NAFTA Super Port on Sears Island?

Like a bayonet thrusting into Maine's soft midcoast underbelly, a proposed NAFTA-ruled super container port has been proposed to move container ship-borne consumer goods via rail and trucks on an Atlantic Trade Corridor. The Atlantica Corridor would begin at Searsport and connect to depots in Canada and the American midwest, no doubt passing through junctions with other North South "trade corridors", as these curious pieces of real estate neither fully public nor private, seem to be called.

Naturally, the former Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, nowadays called Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railroad or MMA and at present clinging by its fingernails to bare survival, hopes to profit by being owners of the first segment of that system.

But even fingernails have limits, MMA has discovered. It can only wait so long before insolvency strikes. Its ever-declining (40% drop since last year) freight contracts bring it perilously close to extinction. So the desperate hacking has begun: amputations of 100s of miles of short lines that have serviced interior Maine for a century. Continuing with its Searsport to Montreal operation and dreaming that if a containerport were only built on Sears Island "they" will come, bearing containerized freight.

This Cargo Cult-ism isn't enough, though, to justify dismembering the Atlantic coast's biggest natural ocean island, let alone dredge out its nursery shoals, so vital to Penobscot Bay's and the Greater Gulf of Maine's fisheries productivity, so that foreign-made trinkets can be a wee bit cheaper on the consumer market.

Hopefully, Maine Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hjelm will agree when he issues his decision on whether to put on trial the perpetual conservation easement agreement (pdf) between Maine DOT and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust that empowers that proposed dismemberment.

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