Nov 22, 2013

Media coverage of 11/18/13 Belfast city council vote to join bay towns calll for EIS of megadredge plan.

Belfast Republican Journal
City to send letter asking for further study of potential impact of project

Council raises concerns about proposed dump site for Searsport dredging project

BELFAST — Belfast councilors weighed in on the proposed plans to dredge Searsport Harbor at Mack Point and called for more environmental review before the project moves forward.
The proposed dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Maine Department of Transportation calls for removing nearly 1 million cubic yards of material from the harbor. The spoils from the dredge would then be dumped off of Islesboro or at a Rockland site.
Specifically, the dredging project would involve increasing the depth of the entrance channel and turning basin in Searsport Harbor from its current depth of 35 feet to 40 feet deep. In addition, the entrance channel would be widened at its narrowest point from 500 feet to 650 feet wide.
Finally, a maneuvering area would be created in Long Cove, which is adjacent to the eastern berth along the State Pier, according to the ACE.
Because of the potential impact to the island community, the Islesboro Board of Selectmen asked the city to send a letter to the ACE requesting a detailed Environmental Impact Statement or a full Supplemental Environmental Assessment be completed before the dredging project begins.
In the letter sent to the council, the Islesboro selectmen state the proposed dredging would “have an adverse effect on businesses in the region, especially lobstering, boatyards and the service sector built upon a scenic and environmentally viable bay.”
Later in the letter, the selectmen state that they are not questioning the need for minor dredging in Searsport Harbor, but that their issue is with the amount of material proposed to be dredged.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, Belfast resident Peter Wilkinson urged the council to not only send the letter requesting additional study of the project, but to demand that the studies be completed.
Wilkinson said there is concern that the amount of material that will be removed as part of the proposed dredging project will allow for further development at Mack Point — possibly in the form of a deep water cargo port.
“If it became a deep water cargo port there would be such disruption of the bay it would make the formerly proposed LPG tank seem somewhat benign in comparison,” Wilkinson said.
City Manager Joseph Slocum noted in his manager's report to councilors that he spoke with a local fisherman who said the area where the dredge spoils would be dumped off of Islesboro is a valuable resource for incubating young lobsters.
Councilor Mike Hurley said he also spoke with local fishermen who had concerns about the location of where the spoils would be dumped before he motioned to have the city send a letter to the ACE asking for the Environmental Impact Study or a full Supplemental Environmental Assessment.
After further discussion, Hurley clarified that the council is not opposed to the dredging but it is concerned about the location where the dredged materials will be dumped.
Mayor Walter Ash agreed and questioned whether a suggestion could be made to the ACE to consider dumping the spoils on land as opposed to in the bay, which could negatively impact fishing grounds.
“I'm quite concerned about it myself,” Ash said of where the spoils would be dumped.
Councilors unanimously approved Hurley's motion to send a letter to the ACE asking for further study of the dredging project before it begins

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