Dec 31, 2006

Dragon Cement - which toxic wastes does it burn?

Back in November Dragon Cement rejected a request by Neighbors for a Safe Dragon (NSD) for the company's fuel/waste burning logs. Why? "Trade secrets," of course. NSD complained to Maine DEP's Peter Carney. He wrote to Dragon in early December, stating that the company must either (a) ship NSD their fuel logs with the 'trade secrets' blacked out, or (b) ship the uncensored list to DEP. The agency, he wrote, would decide whether the things Dragon wants redacted deserved it. Then DEP would pass the fuel logs to NSD either censored or not--though first giving Dragon a chance to appeal this to state court. Stay tuned...

Dec 20, 2006

Sears Island - talks continue.

Two accounts of yesterday's meeting in Searsport...

Tanya's Mitchell's account of the meeting Here

Peter Taber on yesterday's meeting on Sears Island.
Sears Island Update
By Peter Taber

“Today’s the critical day,” Deputy Conservation Commissioner Karin Tilberg predicted Tuesday in Searsport at the start of what many had long hoped would be the end of a now seven-month-long citizen planning initiative, its claimed goal to achieve a consensus recommendation to Gov. John Baldacci to decide the fate of Sears Island. “It’s going to happen today or it’s not going to happen,” she said.

Five hours of generally unproductive talk later, it clearly wasn’t going to happen. But as the new year rolls around, the approximately 40 “stakeholder” participants were assured, there will be more talk, lots of talk. Starting in January, there will be meetings both large and small. Those attending will mostly be from the ranks of the two now-dominant positions that have emerged from half a dozen lengthy open meetings since May, from an unknown number of smaller technically public but unannounced meetings, from a blizzard of email and telephone traffic among the participants.

One group is a familiar one that includes transportation industry representatives and officials of the Department of Transportation (DOT) who are straightforward in their desire for major port development on the west side of the island. According to a large map of the island prepared by the DOT’s Rob Elder on display in the meeting house behind the Searsport Congregational Church where Tuesday’s gathering was held, this would close off for port development some 300 acres of what at present is an entirely wild 941-acre island, the largest such public island property on the East Coast.

The other major group of initiative stakeholders are those ostensibly in the preservation camp, most of whom until recently argued for maintaining the entirety of the island in its natural state. Considering the stormy political history of the island, focus of the longest-running environmental battle in New England history, many of these stakeholders now appear prepared to make some truly astonishing concessions to the first group, their primary caveat being that they, too, should be allowed to embark on physical development of their own on the island in the form of some sort of “education center.”

Indeed, responding to a draft consensus proposal primarily authored by Jonathan Reitman, the Brunswick attorney serving as facilitator for the state-sponsored process, on Tuesday elements of this group made public a compromise version that would give the DOT the green light to start “marketing” perhaps 141 acres of the island for a cargo container port. Reitman had suggested about 241 acres with possibly about another 50 acres serving as “a flex easement.” The compromise version was prepared by Steve Miller, director of the Islesboro Islands Trust, who along with Scott Dickerson, his counterpart at Coastal Mountains Land Trust, has led the drive for non-industrial development of the island. It was unclear whether all the others present calling themselves environmentalists were endorsing this version. Most of these stakeholders spent a considerable portion of the early afternoon closeted away in a private planning session of their own closed to the press. What was clear, after they finally emerged for the open public session, the only criticism heard of the Miller proposal came from the mainline port proponents, who didn’t feel it went far enough to suit them.

The environmentalists included two representatives of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Sierra Club footed much of the bill for a succession of legal maneuvers that stymied port developers and forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce provisions of the U.S. Clean Water Act. This activity brought attention to the enormous environmental damage that would be caused by a container port with a marginal wharf on the west shore of Sears Island, the very sort of project now being reconsidered. It also led to criminal investigation of some of those involved in the major preparatory work that did take place for the project, something that only failed to result in prosecution because the statute of limitations ran out. Further, it led to Normandeau Associates, which conducted some of the planning studies on behalf of the DOT for the project, having its privilege to bid for federal contracts suspended. The Sierra Club’s activities also resulted in the state agreeing to an $800,000 settlement to avoid prosecution for illegal filling of wetlands at the proposed port site. And, most significantly, it was this legal effort that ultimately forced Gov. Angus King to conclude in 1996 that the cost of mitigating for environmental damage made continuing with the port project an economically unsound idea.

Tuesday’s meeting opened with Tilberg seeking to clear the air in the wake of a Bangor Daily News article last Friday whose banner headline announced “Sears Island group reaches consensus on port.” “This is a very delicate time,” she cautioned as she went on to strongly deny suspicion her department was anything but transparent in its dealings, that it certainly would never attempt “to plant articles.” The story with its misleading headline was widely circulated by other news media including Maine Public Radio. Reporter Tom Groening said he “cringed” when he read the headline and blamed “some 25-year-old copyeditor” for the error.


Dec 3, 2006

Maine DEP still undecided on Samorock pier-sprawl plan for Rockland Breakwater.

Jim Cassida, Maine DEP's permit reviewer for the Samorock's plan for a yacht pier next to the Rockland Breakwater, continues to delay. Several days ago he answered an inquiry as to the status of the plan with:

"We are again waiting for a revised visual analysis. I will keep you posted. Jim"

So the wait continues...

Jun 28, 2006

DMR politicizes aquaculture decision

Maine Department of Marine Resources' aquaculture administrator is
throwing roadblocks in the way of a Rockland aquaculture proposal apparently in order to benefit a developer with personal ties to Governor Baldacci that is seeking to build a pier in a nearby location. At the same
time, Maine Department of Environmental Protection is poised to reject
the developer's pier proposal, due to its impact to the area's marine

Rockland resident Neal Parker filed an application with DMR on January
12th of this year for an experimental lease to grow sponges, eelgrass
and coralline algae in a two acre site near the Rockland Breakwater.
The species would be bottom-cultured with no cages, lines or pens.
Lobstering and recreational fishing would be permitted to continue
within the lease area.

While the proposal has met with acceptance by the residents and lobster
fishers of the area, DMR has done everything possible to slow down decision
making on Parker's application, apparently to benefit efforts by a
politically connected developer to build a pier in the same area. The
developer, Samorock LLC, is represented before state agencies by
Robert Baldacci, Governor John Baldacci's brother. Samorock owns
the Samoset resort.

DMR aquaculture administrator Mary Costigan has tried a variety of
tactics to delay decisionmaking on Parker's proposal. According to
documents released pursuant to a Freedom of Access Law request , Costigan
sought a scoping session on the proposal before receiving ANY comments
on the proposal. The scoping session was ultimately not held,
following objections by another DMR official.

Costigan then ordered a public hearing on the proposal, despite a lack
of public interest during the March comment period in doing so. Public
hearings are not required on experimental aquaculture leases unless
five or more individuals request one. Only three requests were
received. The would-be pier developer Samorock LLC did not request a
public hearing.

Moreover, while the agency typically holds public hearings on
experimental aquaculture proposals a few weeks after the close of the
comment period, Costigan has set the date for Parker's hearing for
late August, effectively preventing him from beginning work on his
lease site until next year.

By contrast, DMR received a mussel farm proposal in May and
will hold the public hearing in July, according to the mussel farm
applicant's father, Erick Swanson.

Remarkably, while Maine DMR's aquaculture administrator has been
bending over backwards to favor developer Samorock over its own
aquaculture applicant, officials at Maine Department of Environmental
Protection are poised to reject Samorock's pier proposal due to its
adverse effects on juvenile lobster habitat, the harbor lobster
fishery, shorebird nesting habitat and the aesthetics of the
breakwater area, according to DEP official Jim Cassida, who is
handling the application for that agency.

Cassida will be meeting with representatives of Samorock today to give
them an opportunity to withdraw their pier plan before the agency
rejects it.

Maine DEP proposed rejecting a similar Samorock proposal in 2001. The company withdrew its proposal at that time.

May 24, 2006

Sears Island's future at stake at meeting May 30th

On May 30th the Sears Island Planning Initiative Steering Committee will meet at the First Congregational Church of Searsport from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. All are welcome.
DOC info on Sears island meetings Click Here
I. Welcome, Introductions and Agenda Review
II. Goals for the process
III. Proposed Groundrules for Effective Communication and Dispute Resolution
IV. Proposed Steering Committee Protocol
V. Composition of Steering Committee and Resource Circle
VI. Overview of Process, Proposed Work Plan and Timeline; discussion of public participation event(s)
VII. Creation of Subcommittees:
* Education (including materials)
* Public Participation
* Site Visit
* Other
VIII. Identification of Issues
IX. Summary and Adjourn

Public hearings June 12-13 on 2006-07 sea urchin seasons

(DMR) announces two public hearings on proposed rules to establish the 2006-2007 Maine sea urchin fishing seasons. Rules for both zones (Zone 1 to be followed by Zone 2) will be discussed at both hearings.

• Monday, June 12, 6pm at the Science Building Lecture Hall, University of Maine, 9 O’Brien Avenue, Machias.
• Tuesday, June 13, 6pm at the Lincoln County Communications Center Meeting Room (lower entrance behind the courthouse), Route 1, Wiscasset.

Agency contact person: Margaret Hunter
Mail written comments to: attn L Churchill
AGENCY NAME: Department of Marine Resources
ADDRESS: PO Box 8, West Boothbay Harbor, Maine 04575-0008
TELEPHONE: (207) 633-9584

Apr 29, 2006

Sears Island raided by Homeland Security

Sears Island raided by Homeland Security.
Local and state security forces put public Sears Island under a tight cordon, Friday, including aerial surveillance, police dogs, motorized and on-foot sheriff's patrols,and a hastily set up wall of Jersey Barriers blockading off the island, all at the request of the Maine Department of Transportation,

That agency fears losing its grip on the NW quarter of the island.
related article for updates...

Apr 28, 2006

Stop Maine shark-finning!

On Wednesday May 24th, you can help put an end to the practice of "finning" sharks captured in Maine state waters.

On that day at 6pm Maine DMR will host a meeting on a rulemaking proposal to do so at their laboratory in West Boothbay Harbor (Directions below). "Shark finning" means capturing dogfish and other sharks live, cutting off and saving their fins,and tossing the maimed animal back into the water. Sharks' fins are considered a folk medicine or flavorful soup ingredient by several cultures. The price paid to harvesters for fins is much higher per pound than for shark flesh or skin, leading to an incentive to keep only the fins of sharks . The shark finning industry has led to a major drop in the number of sharks around the world, including the Gulf of Maine.

The US Government now bans shark finning in federal waters. Maine is required to enact a shark finning ban for state waters. Please get involved to make sure that Maine's regulations are strict as possible to keep our finny friends around!
Complete details, below...

PUBLIC HEARING: Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 6:00 PM*, Department of Marine Resources, Large Conference Room, 200 McKown Point Road, West Boothbay Harbor

DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS: Saturday, June 3, 2006

AGENCY CONTACT PERSON: Terry Stockwell (tel: 207-624-6550)
Mail Written Comments to: attn: L. Churchill
AGENCY NAME: Department of Marine Resources
West Boothbay Harbor, Maine 04575-0008
TELEPHONE: (207) 633-9584
FAX: (207) 633-9579
TTY: (207) 633-9500 (Deaf/Hard of Hearing)
Hearing facilities: If you require accommodations due to disability, please contact Kim Pierce, at (207) 287-5055.
Additional information:

The proposed regulations would implement a prohibition in Maine’s territorial waters for the process of “finning” spiny dogfish or coastal sharks. This measure would provide enforcement consistency with the National Marine Fisheries Service federal regulations for sharks (CFR 635.30) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Fisheries Management Plan for Spiny Dogfish.

Finning is the process of removing the fin or fins from a coastal shark or spiny dogfish and discarding the remaining of the animal at sea. According to the federal regulations background the strong international market for shark fins has increased the potential for fishing shark stocks at unsustainable levels as well as the waste of usable (but often relatively lower value) shark meat.

The proposed regulations would affect all harvesters of coastal shark or spiny dogfish in Maine’s territorial waters. These amendments are intended to have a positive impact on the conservation of the resource for future harvest.

Shark finning has been prohibited in Federal waters since 1993, and finning of spiny dogfish was prohibited in this region in 2000. Persons aboard a vessel issued a federal permit for coastal shark or spiny dogfish already must comply with the federal prohibitions to shore or more restrictive rules. Maine is the remaining member state of the ASMFC compact to comply with the finning prohibition.


Chapter 50- Spiny Dogfish and Coastal Sharks

50.01 Definitions

1. “Coastal Sharks” means for the purpose of these regulations any species of shark caught in Maine’s territorial waters.

2. “Finning” means the act of taking a spiny dogfish or other coastal shark removing the fins, and returning the remainder of the spiny dogfish or other coastal shark to the sea.

50.02 Harvest, Possession and Landing Restrictions Note: See separate proposed rulemaking

50.10 Finning Prohibited

Finning is prohibited in Maine territorial waters. Vessels that land spiny dogfish or other coastal shark must land fins in proportion to carcasses, with a maximum 5% fin to carcass ratio, by weight. Fins may be removed at sea, but the corresponding carcass, including the head and tail, must be retained. All fins and carcasses must be landed at the same time and in the same location. The shark or dogfish may be bled.

If you wish to submit comments on this rulemaking and are unable to attend the hearing please mail written comments at any time from the receipt of this notice to be received on or by
June 3, 2006. See contact information.

Mar 3, 2006

Penobscots, NGOs to DEP: Is Casella plan for mega bark mulch complex the camel's nose for another Maine megawaste complex?

Is the mega-mulch plan for Milford actually Casella wastes' first foray into its long-dreaded proposal for a mammoth waste & demolition debris processing and sorting complex in Maine?

Recently John Banks, natural resources director for the Penobscot Nation, and a number of other concerned folks met with Karen Knuuti of the DEP's Remediation and Waste Management bureau. Purpose: Get more info on Casella Wastes plan for bark mulching and bark chip storage site that Casella wants to build at the west end of the Stud Mill Road on the Milford / Greenbush town line.

Kanuuti did the can-only-act-on-what-is-right-before-her-in-the-permit-application
dance as expected, but some aspects of the big picture are sinking in:
Big Waste is seizing every opportunity to acquire and expand existing waste dumps no matter how small, and to of course creat entire new waste hoards. Can we curb Waster rapacity?

Maine's Mini-NEPA to the Rescue?
Is the bark that Casella wants to mulch in Milford defined as 'waste' or 'raw materials'? The difference is vast. If the latter, Maine's Site Location of Development Act requires a whole new level of review for Casella's plans.

The additional review requires a look at the forest of the area

Sec 485-A(1-A)
of the Site Law, notes that:

"For a new or expanded development requiring an annual supply of wood or wood-derived materials in excess of 150,000 tons green weight, the applicant shall submit a wood supply plan for informational purposes to the Maine Forest Service concurrent with the application required in subsection 1. " What must a wood supply plan include?
1-A. Wood supply. For a new or expanded development requiring an annual supply of wood or wood-derived materials in excess of 150,000 tons green weight, the applicant shall submit a wood supply plan for informational purposes to the Maine Forest Service concurrent with the application required in subsection 1. "

The wood supply plan must include, but is not limited to, the following information:
A. The expected operational life of the development;
B. The projected annual wood consumption of wood mill residue, wood fiber and recycled materials from forest products during the entire operational life of the development;
C. The expected market area for wood supply necessary to supply the development; and
D. Other relevant wood supply information."

Feb 2, 2006

Rockport coastal forest threatened by Utah firm.

Leucadia National Corporation has its eyes on developing 111 acres of the Brewster Point forest on the edge of Clam Cove in Rockport. (Area outlined in white on aerial photo.) Travellers on Route 1 in Rockport can see the forest (for now) rising directly across the impressive Clam Cove mudflats in Glen Cove. The company purchsed the forest property in late January 05 from the estate of longtime landowner Nancy Smyrll, who died in last June.

Up to 50% of this tract is a thickly forested wetland rich with wildlife, including deer, furbearing mammls, forest dwelling songbirds and many more. Eleven streams flow through and out of the forest within the tract, which is also a major portion of a an undeveloped wildlife corridor stretching between Rockland Harbor and Clam Cove.

Utah-based Leuvadia is a conglomerate with subsidiaries in the fields of mining, telecommunications, healthcare, banking, manufacturing, real estate, winery operations, and insurance. On page 1 of its 2004 Annual Report, Leucadia describes its investment philosophy “as buying assets that are out of favor and, therefore, cheap or disheveled in one way or another which makes them inexpensive.”

While wetlands rich, wildlife rich forests such as this one may be "disheveled" in the eye of a developer, to Nature they are splendidly organized and highly functional areas, and, in this this case, irreplaceable.

To date the company has not filed any applications with Maine DEP. Nor has it held any preapplication discussions with the agency. There have been no application filed with the town of Rockport either.
Stay tuned...

Jan 20, 2006

Eel Liberation Part 2--Androscoggin River

Coming on the heels of their victorious effort in January to get the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to agree to hold a full adjudicated hearing on the impact to American eels of turbines of a hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River
Ed Friedman and his Merrymeeting man and women today pose the same question to the BEP but this time on behalf of the eels that are lost to turbines on the Androscoggin River.
Click HERE for a pdf file of Ed Friedman's remarks today before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.

Good luck today, Ed & companions! anyone who looks into the eyes of the eels of Maine cannot but wish him the best.

Stay Tuned.

Jan 18, 2006

Maine eels huggers gain public hearing!

Eel defenders Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and won a key victory today when the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP voted to hold a full adjudicated hearing on the impact to American eels of turbines of a hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River. The eel huggers are asking for immediate down & upstream passage for catadromous eels through dams on that river and the Androscoggin River as well for the movement of anadromous fish.

The BEP decision to hold the meeting went against the recommendations of the Maine DEP staff, so it was a figure that had to be fought for. Happily, as one meeting attendee put it: "The DEP staff, and the dam owners kept digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves." Let's hope they and DMR which likewise has been silent in the face of the well documented heavy eel slaughter at the turbines, dig a hole big enough to let this important animal pass safely from freshwater Kennebec to the Gulf of Maine. Two fins up for Kathleen McGee, Ed Friedman and the others waging this critical campaign for wild Maine.

Salmon fly fishery on the Penobscot?

State proposes salmon fishery reopening on the Penobscot River.
An Atlantic Samon Commission plan to allow a limited flyfishing season will be released in February with public hearings in March.
Atlantic Salmon Commission says studies show a one month winter flyfishing only catch and release fishery won't seriously harm recovery efforts especially as survivability is believed to be better when the water and air is cold, than warm.

NGO's Atlantic Salmon Federation and Trout unlimited have waded in. ASF "studying the plan", but Trout Unlimited is voicing doubts about the wisdom of a fishery in the midst of a restoration. But reserving judgement.
Penobscot River salmon not on ESA. Under a state/fedeal agreement, fishing was drasticly curtailed. State official
Pat Keliher agrees Maine salmon are not restored but says a case can be made for the public awareness positivity of a very limited fishery.

Atlantic Salmon Commission
Atlantic Salmon Federation (Maine)
Trout Unlimited (Maine Council)