Nov 30, 2010

Sears Island: State legislators to submit a container port bill for unprotected third of estuary island.

A Sears Island intertidal area threatened by proposed port.
According to a November 22, 2010 article "Thomas will introduce bill for Sears Island container port" by Mike Lange of the Somerset Valley Weekly,  Maine state senator-elect Douglas A. Thomas is, in his own words: "...submitting a bill in this session to build a container port on Sears Island,”. Thomas has yet to return phone or email requests for elaboration.

So it is not clear: Is he proposing renewed soliciting of potential port applicants - unlikely to prove different from the state's recent  unanswered global call for port applicants -  or if he is proposing that  a state owned port be built there using taxpayer funds?

Thomas is quoted in the SV  as saying "We've been fooling around with this for 30 years. We've already made an agreement to put 600 acres of the island into a permanent conservation easement. That leaves 340 acres to build a container port.”  (Those thirty years include  these federal lawsuits  and several citizen uprisings, including one against Angus King's woodchip port plan, and Governor Baldacci's Sears Island LNG port plan.


BACKSTORY
On January 13th and  on January 15,  2009, as state representative, Thomas and several other legislators made their opposition  clear   to the Legislature's Transportation Committee chairs about Maine DOT's Joint Use Plan for Sears Island and Governor Baldacci's  Executive Order 24/fy08 (pdf) authorizing it.


However, at those two meetings, then-Transportation Committee co-chair Senator Dennis Damon brushed aside Thomas and several other returning and new legislators on that Committee,  and on  January 18th, Damon shoved through  approval of the JUPC plan (15 minute mp3):

No reaction yet from Joint Use Plan signers Friends of Sears Island, Maine Sierra Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Coastal Mountain Land Trust, Island Institute and others who supported the dividing of the public-owned island into a perpetual easement to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust of two thirds of the island , and  a western third dedicated to the  "marine transportation ".

Senator Thomas?  Tell us about your Sears Island bill, please!

Nov 21, 2010

Governor LePage's choice: Ocean Wind Energy? Or Lobsters, Scallops & Haddock?

As far as the Gulf of Maine goes, Governor Paul LePage must begin by either supporting the rough and tumble economy of  Maine's existing small ocean businesses - lobstering and other commercial & recreational fisheries offshore and onshore of Maine, and their supporting landbased economic partners.  Or else LePage must support oncoming big absentee corporations businesses - utility companies, investment banks and more - brought by the new federal ocean windpower  agency  to lease waters off Maine  critical to those fisheries.
 
What's at stake for Maine in Governor LePage's decision could be the  the very survival of Maine lobstering itself against powerful federal pressure for a quick and dirty heavily subsidized offshore industrial windrush.  

WHY? Larval lobsters are planktonic for a month or more after hatching in early summer. 

Although they can swim, their movement is largely that of the currents in which they become entrained. As demonstrated in this University of Maine animation, Maine lobster larvae hatching from Canadian and Downeast broodstock travel down the Eastern Maine Coastal Current to Penobscot Bay waters, where the world's top American Lobster fishery unsurprisingly occurs. scallops and many finfish also spend their larval life travelling by ocean current from hatching place to settlement area.

But in this illustration of summer surface currents -  based on the state's official draft location map of  proposed Gulf of Maine ocean windpower zones - one proposed windpower area is directly athwart the Eastern Maine Coastal Current  - just before it reaches Penobscot Bay

Depending on the size of  ocean wind project set up there, more lobster larvae could be diverted south into the outer Gulf of Maine, instead of continuing west into SW Penobscot Bay 's rich lobstergrounds.

Two others ocean windpower planning areas are within the Western Maine Coastal Current, which travels from west Penobscot Bay to Massachusetts Bay along the Northern New England coast - one off Casco Bay and one between upper Jeffreys Ledge and the mainland.  (Actual sites have more  irregular shapes than shown  see map below)









Nov 17, 2010

Gulf of Maine Ocean wind wannabes eyeing sites off Jeffreys Ledge, Cashes Ledge, Platts Bank & the Bounties. NEFMC bails.

Learn what places the state has picked so far  and listen to the speakers at the federal/state ocean energy task force meeting held at the statehouse in Augusta on Tuesday, November 16, 2010.  Click here or scroll down this page.

Four important facts to come out of the meeting:   
  1. The map below is the state's first rough cut of suitable areas, s supplied to the meeting by Matt Nixon, GIS specialist for State Planning office. It shows four potential deepwater ocean wind areas off Midcoast and Southern Maine. His preliminary review of Gulf of Maine  trawl and dredge fishery VMS tracking data and commercial shipping use data.  Achieving the status of potential locations for ocean windfarming are:   a location east of the northern half of Jeffrey's Ledge;  one between Fippennies Bank and Cashes Ledge; one between Platts Bank and  the Harris Ground, and one between  the Bounties and the Clay Bank offshore of Penobscot Bay.
the Baldacci Administration's nervousness about picking offshore windmill locations, by being stamped in red multiple times with such qualifiers as "DRAFT: Not Agency or Administration Policy" and  "Significant Additional Stakeholder and Biological Input needed",  "Draft: For discussion purposes only", and SUBJECT TO CHANGE."   Nothing is final yet, Nixon insists:  "Extensive additional user input needed". OK, Matt, we get it!  

2. At least  three companies have written the Bureau of Parks and Lands expressing interest in building and operating ocean windmills in federal waters off Maine. That according to Dan Prichard of the Bureau of Parks and Lands, who  would not identify the companies or their desired locations locations, stating confidentiality of ongoing  negotiations

3. NEFMC tucks tail. The New England Fishery Management Council,  has opted out of participating in oversight of this fishing ground takeover. This from Paul J. Howard, Council's  executive director. Howard says that while he's has been receiving calls from officials of the three New England states where BOEMRE is running  interagency  task forces (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine) asking the NEFMC to get involved, "the Council does not have the resources to do so."

Howard wrote that is was good enough that NMFS's Northeast regional office participates in the BOEMRE task forces,, noting however, that  NMFS regional administrator Pat Kurkul "suggested we are better off getting involved with NROC  (Northeast Regional Ocean Council than individual task forces."   But Howard notes that  "NROC is not coordinating these activities following the newly signed Presidential Executive Order about ocean planning".  NROC is  a state/federal partnership created in 2005  to "engage in regional protection and balanced use of ocean and coastal resources" by the six New England states.  So nobody appears to be guarding the Gulf of Maine fisheries chicken coop from the energy foxes? !

4th  the state may sign a revised "Letter of Intent to Coordinate Review and Approval Processes"(pdf) with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy.  This is much more of a legal document than the now renamed "charter" of the last meeting, Listen below to Audio  Parts 14 and 15 for details on the changes the state requested be made in the letter.

New Lepage Administration Tilberg, a special advisor to outgoing governor John Baldacci, will be departing her post as state lead in the BOEMRE process at the end of the year. Kathleen Leyden, head of Maine coastal program will replace her pro-tem, but look to the Lepage Administration making its own picks for marine resource, coastal program, and ocean energy leadership slots

Offshore wind IS a marine resource. We've seen the results when other newly exploited marine resources get piled on by everyone who can afford to be out there.  While the agencies stress that nothing is settled, the process is similar to the one used to select waters off Monhegan, Boon and Damariscove Islands for ocean windpower test sites. Things are moving quickly, and with few exceptions, the public has not been watching its public servants working on this planned  major change in ocean management. And they've gotten to be "uppity servants", secure in their tenure,

The greatest environmental  protection brought to the Gulf of Maine by Maine's Coastal Program &Seagrant/Cooperative extension, are their almost perfect inertia  No matter what committees or task forces the Maine legislature spawns, no matter how many  powerpoint sessions Maine's dedicated circus troupe of ocean and coastal planning  bureaucrats host up and down our coast, the results will be the same:
A glossy coffeetable book-sized report, calls for more funding to allow the Coastal Program/Cooperative Extension/Seagrant community and their private consultant allies  to trek from catered meeting to catered meeting. For more study. And then....Nothing.
For when it comes to such potentially threatening energy extractive industries  to our  Gulf of Maine as industrial class wind and tidal power extraction, (or on such matters  as aquaculture, marine protected areas & "bay management") Coastal Program & Co seem to have adapted and revised the Hippocratic: "first do nothing harmful!" philosophy to  "First do nothing!". It is a strategy that has been phenomenally successful in thwarting efforts to manage human impacts on the se waters and their wild inhabitants.

MEETING RECORDINGS (mp3s)
1 Introduction 7 minutes
2 General introductions. 5 Minutes
3 Introduction by Karin Tilberg 5 minutes
4. Introduction by Maureen Bornholdt 3 minutes
5. Aditi Mirani, Boemre 4 minutes
6. Matt Nixon Me State Planning Office on "Maps & Gaps" 24 minutes
7 Deirdre Gilbert with Island Institute slides 7 minutes
8. DMR Commissioner George LaPointe 1 minute
9. Matt Nixon on Recreational Fisheries 1 minute.
10. Matt Nixon on commercial vessel traffic maps 5 minutes
11. Nixon on "Non-Consumptive" resources, incl viewshed 6 minutes
12. Nixon summarizes data gaps and needs 9 minutes
13.* Karin Tilberg summarizes GIS data value. 3 minutes
14. Karin Tilbert on Federal Letter of Intent to Coordinate Review and Approval Processes. 10 minutes
15. Karin Tilberg takes questions on Federal Letter changes and does wrap up. 21 minutes.
16. Professor Rebecca Holberton, University of Maine ornithologist. 8 minutes
17 Ron Huber, Penobscot Bay Watch, on RFI respondents and water current issues. 8 minutes

Nov 15, 2010

Maine coast fishing grounds to be divvied up for wind energy corporations Tuesday by fed & state officials meeting in Augusta

The future for Maine sea fisheries is getting foggy.  There seems to be an aggressive attempt by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation; Enforcement, (BOEMRE) to close the marine commons off Maine in waters 3+ miles offshore.  
On the morning of November 16th,  BOEMRE hosts its second meeting of its  Maine Ocean Energy Interagency  Task Force in Augusta . The meeting starts at 10am and ends 12:30pm  in Room 228 of the Statehouse (the Appropriations Committee room)   READ AGENDA (I page pdf).     
TOPIC: Continued negotiations with state officials on closing  the ocean commons off Maine and  leasing it to the energy industry. Read the "charter" between Maine and the federal agency. Location. State House, Room 228 Augusta. Open to public.   Read details of the federal bureau of ocean energy's Maine program.

To listen to the meeting streaming online, go to this legislative committee room audio link from 10am to 12:30pm on Tuesday November 15th

If you  wish to listen to the meeting by phone/ conference call, you may do so toll free by calling 1-887-930-6875 and using Passcode: 2197783 when prompted.

A webinar will be used during part of the meeting. For additional information,  contact Matt Nixon: (207) 624-6226 or by email  matthew.e.nixon AT maine.gov

This is a followup to  BOEMRE's September 14th meeting in Belfast. (info and audio)
At the Sept 14th meeting, the state and local federal officials assembled were told to bring maps to the November meeting. Maps with locations that could be leased to monopile windfarms - windmills blasted and pounded into the seafloor. These are the type that Angus King and his cronies would like to profit by building close to the coast.

However, Maine's government and state university have chosen not to pursue that type of ocean windfarming.  Instead they have opted to develop floating deepwater windmills far offshore -out of sight of coastal residents and their scenic economic resources, and away from nearshore fishing grounds and sailing areas.   The University of Maine and its DeepCwind Consortium have received at least 40 millions in federal funding to (1) carry out their R&D, (2) produce a first prototype and (3) build and deploy a full sized deepwater floating windmill, connecting by cable with the mainland somewhere in New England.

So there are tensions going into the November 16th meeting.  Maine's agency representatives may end up surprising officials of BOEMRE's offshore wind power division by declining to map out hundreds of square miles of seamounts and ledge-filled submerged wildlands. Doing otherwise would only facilitate a windrush of speculators like Mr. King. 

Maine should follow the lead of its scientific community and focus on ocean energy solutoins that do not harm the very economies they purport to be helping.

If you are unable to attend and wish to listen to the meeting online, you may do so at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/  A webinar will be used during part of the meeting. For additional information, including details on how to view the webinar, contact Matt Nixon: (207) 624-6226 or by email  matthew.e.nixon AT maine.gov

Nov 6, 2010

Federal Ocean Energy Task Force-Maine meets November 16th, Augusta.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement's Maine Task Force will hold a meeting on November 16, 2010 at 10am in Room 228 of the Statehouse (the Appropriations Committee room)

No agenda details are available yet.  This is a followup to  BUMMER's September 14th meeting in Belfast. (info and audio)

At the Sept 14th meeting, the state and local federal officials assembled were told to bring maps to the November meeting. Maps with locations that could be leased to monopile windfarms - windmills blasted and pounded into the seafloor. These are the type that Angus King and his cronies would like to profit by building close to the coast.

However, Maine's government and state university have chosen not to pursue that type of ocean windfarming.  Instead they have opted to develop floating deepwater windmills far offshore -out of sight of coastal residents and their scenic economic resources, and away from nearshore fishing grounds and sailing areas.   The University of maine and its Deepwind Consortium have received at least 40 millions in federal funding to (1) carry out their R&D, (2) produce a first prototype and (3) build and deploy a full sized deepwater floating windmill, connecting by cable with the mainland somewhere in New England.

So there are tensions going into the November 16th meeting.  Maine's agency representatives may end up surprising officials of BOEMRE's offshore wind power division by declining to map out hundreds of square miles of seamounts and ledge-filled submerged wildlands. Doing otherwise would only facilitate a windrush of speculators like Mr. King. 

Maine should follow the lead of its scientific community and focus on ocean energy solutoins that do not harm the very economies they purport to be helping.

If you are unable to attend and wish to listen to the meeting online, you may do so at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/  A webinar will be used during part of the meeting. For additional information, including details on how to view the webinar, contact Matt Nixon: (207) 624-6226 or by email  matthew.e.nixon AT maine.gov

Offshore Wind Conference: Tools & Info for Coastal Stakeholders 12/14/10 Belfast

On Tuesday December 14th, 2010, The Island Institute will host the "Offshore Wind: Tools and Information for Coastal Stakeholders" conference.  The event will be held at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine.
Registration (click here) is free for the first 100 participants and $15 for those that register after that.
Topics:
* Maine's new offshore wind goals
* Critical factors that will impact the development of offshore wind
* East Coast experiences with offshore wind siting
* Concepts and tools for evaluating ocean renewable energy projects
* Improving the community outreach and permitting process

Nov 5, 2010

Maine windmill pushers make the rounds in Massachusetts

Susan Pude of the Island Institute's Maine Community Wind subsidiary has been making the rounds in the Bay State, promoting coastal and island windmills. Joined by  Dave McGlinchey of the environmental consulting firm Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, and others.
 
Disappointingly, in a recent Boston Globe article, Pude doesn't discuss the results of her efforts promoting windmills on the mainland - a resounding rejection by three towns at once. This may be a record; more importantly, residents of Camden, Hope and Rockport (1) got educated by reviewing the information presented them by the wind industry's supporters,(2) reached out to residents of other towns where windmill plans were being reviewed or had already passed or been rebuffed, (3) attended the meetings of Camden's mildly pro-wind energy committee and the town's governing body, listening respectfully and speaking on both points of fact and concerns over quality of life.

Residents of the three towns then decided they didn't want them, and made that clear to their town leaders. Democracy spake; the Camden Hills remain the scenic and wild asset that much of these towns' tourism and creative economies nestle around.

What is most striking about Pude and the other windpower boosters in the article is that, despite the fact pointed out in the article, that "...95 percent of wind power proposals fail to win local permitting approval..." Manomet and Island Institute - both of whom profit handsomely from their technical support on behalf of the wind industry - arrogantly see these civic decisions as impediments to be overcome. Overruled.

This damn-the-public,-full-speed-ahead position suggests that McGlinchey's & Pude's organizations' claims of serving "the public interest" - the basis of their non profit status- ought to be reevaluated. For the public is speaking loudly, while Manomet and Island Institute are feigning deafness to all but the clink of money.