Sep 28, 2007

Boat fuel spill fouls Saint George River

According to a report in Village Soup:

"About 600 gallons of number two diesel fuel have leaked into the St. George River Friday morning from a boat [Arcadia] docked at Lyman Morse Boat Builders near the Wadsworth Street Bridge and "has spread down to the St. George/South Thomaston line and flowed up to Warren, according to officials on the scene."

The spoill occurred when the boat owner failed to pay attention to the fueling process.

Responders include Maine DEP, DMR the Thomaston and Warren Fire Departments

While optimistic officials have told the press the cleanup will take only " several days", this remains to be seen. Stay Tuned...

Bad ballast water bill pulled from consideration!

Pressed by environmental activists, the US Senate Commerce Committee has pulled a foul amendment from consideration as part of S 1578: the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2007". The industry supported "Nelson Amendment" would have stripped states of the right under the federal clean water act to prevent invader species from being discharged into their lakes, rivers and coastal waters in ballast water. Recreational boating industry was a major part of the impetus to weaken state powers.

According to a Snowe staffer in Washington, the Nelson Amendment was withdrawn by its sponsor, after Sen Barbara Boxer introduced, then withdrew, her own amendment restoring the primacy of the Clean Water Act. So the bill never came up before the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday and will be worked on into the future. See a recent (August 07) news article detailing the POVs of S 1578's critics and supporters.

Nina Bell of Northwest Environmental Advocates organized marine activists around the nation's coasts into signing a joint letter to Commerce Committee members opposing the bill, and organized a call-in campaign to legislators. Maine's Olympia Snowe "laid low", according to one observer familiar with the hearing, and was neither in support or opposition. Other Senators on the Commerce Committee were concerned enough by the issues raising in the letter and calls to pressure its withdrawal from consideration.

Sep 26, 2007

Bill strips Maine of power to fend off marine invader species.

Dear Friends,

In the cause of environmental justice, please urge Senator Olympia Snowe to vote against a bill -- S 1578--the so-called "Ballast Water Management Act of 2007" The bill is coming up before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow.

Please call the capital switchboard (202) 224-3121) ask for Olympia Snowe. NOTE THE COMMITTEE VOTE IS TOMORROW. Snowe's staffers are totting up how much interest there is, so please call!

Under the Clean Water Act, Maine Department of Environmental Protection can impose strict conditions on ballast water discharges into state waters and even bar it entirely.

This water, required to be pumped out of the ballast holds of oceangoing cargo ships to accomodate the weight of onloaded cargo and to pass through shallow areas, is typically found to be rich with exotic marine life, pathogens and pollutants from distant waters and ports around the globe.

With actual andf attempted increases in cargo and tanker ships and barges picking up and delivering cargo at ports in Casco, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bays, the state needs to retain its powers to protect its vital lobster industry and other coastal fisheries from ecological disasters from marine invader species introduction --granted it under the Clean Water Act-- more than ever.

The new bill S 1578--the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2007" would declare the Coast Guard to be "the sole Federal authority" to limit species' introduction by vessels. This would invalidate Maine and other states' ability to use the powers given to states under the Clean Water Act to restrict such discharges.

Pushing this mandate of marine biological management onto an ill-equipped and already-overburdened US Coast Guard takes the agency into a regulatory area it lacks both expertise and time to perform successfully.

Even worse, under the bill the Coast Guard could postpone indefinitely the date at which whatever standards it finally comes up with are enacted. In the politicized morass of the present administration that can mean "never".

As a letter sent to the Commerce Committee today by fortyfour environmental and conservation groups notes:

"Individually and in combination, the proposed provisions precluding States from taking their own actions, exempting ballast water discharges from the Clean Water Act, and curtailing the federal agencies’ actions, result in a bill that we fear will perpetuate the economic and environmental harm of invasive species for many years to come."

Senator Snowe needs to know that this bill is bad news for Maine's lobsters and lobster industry. Maine is much better positioned to identify and prevent discharges of marine invader species into its waters that could put its fisheries and public health at risk.

Please call Snowe's office and urge her vote against this a fast-moving industry bill. With increases in cargo and tanker ships and barges picking up and delivering cargo at ports in Casco, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bays, the state needs its powers to prevent ecological disasters from marine invader species --granted it under the Clean Water Act-- more than ever.

Call Senator Snow via the capital switchboard (202) 224-3121, and let her know you care about marine Maine.

Ron Huber
Penobscot BayWatch

Sep 12, 2007

Public criticises Cianbro plan to dump Brewer dredge spoils into Penobscot Bay

Dredge 'n dump meeting at Rockland Middle School thronged; industry reps present, lobstermen glare, agencies filibuster, environmentalists fume.

At a meeting sponsored by the Maine Department of Marine Resources
lobstermen and environmentalists challenged the proposal by Cianbro and an unnamed corporate partner to dredge mud and woody debris from Penobscot River bottom adjacent to the defunct Eastern Fine Paper site in Brewer , as part of setting up and operating an industrial module producing plan on the site. News coverage... more media coverage___even more media coverage

The Cianbro Company is partnered with unnamed investors to build and operate an industrial module assembly facility that would import parts from other states and nations, assemble them, then shipping out the completed "industrial modules" to be put together onsite . "Like erector sets" the company rep said.

Cianbro and its partners say they want to move quickly and be assembling these modules 12 months from now.

Fishermen and conservationists at the meeting lobbied hard for a total upland disposal option be substituted for bay dumping at the Rockland Disposal Site.

Two petitions were sent or given to DMR, one calling for a public hearing and one expressing the concern of dozens of bay area citizens who would be affected. DMR claimed that the public information meeting being held, was adequate ; I objected, citing the plain language of MRSA 38 480-D(9) Dredging. (scroll down to (9) the statutory chapter and verse.

The meeting was about 1 & 1/2 hours long. At the head tables, (speaking mostly in that annoying sotte voce used by midlevel officials at such interagency public meetings) were two DEPers: the permit reviewer and the DEP marine ecologist; in the middle: DMR's Brian Swan. On the other side sat the Cianbro representatives including Parker Hadlock, with experience in port building and renovation in Portland, who will be the project manager for the project, which will build by-request modular machines for global big industry. Army Corps of Engineers' Shawn Mahaney sat in the back of the audience, occasionally fielding RFI's from the state and industry reps up front.

An enviro/chem consultant for Cianbro sat quietly in the front row, saying little, and that little with awesomely developed pass-the-buck skill.

Maine Lobstermens' Association President Dave Cousens was in the second row with several lieutenants and a row or two of Vinalhaven lobstermen with families. Lobstermen pushed for schedule change to minimize interference iwth autumn fishery, questioned the toxicity information and opposed damaging their industry to better another one; Sierra Club's Vivian Newman questioned the jobs projections, (she came in about 45 minutes in.) The Lobster Conservancy voiced concerns over toxicity and the smothering of lobsters, the Lower Penobscot Watershed Association advised, the Island Institute rep spoke; Hannah Pingree gave a lengthy statement recapping the fishermens' concerns.

Posters on easels: an 1880s architect's drawing of a chlorine-using paper mill filling the same local footprint. It showed two docks operating back then: one for shipping materials and paper, one labeled "coal dock" (gotta be a lot of coal down there). A nav chart of Penobscot Bay with the east and west l shipping lanes highlighted, a chart tabulating of toxics findings of sediment cores.

The Pitch
Cianbrorep was enthused about re-using this old riverside industrial site in Brewer , providing good paying jobs non-polluting industy since it is only assembly of parts coming in, completed industrial modules going out. If approved, the facility's first project, that they have already been awarded the contract to build, will be sent to some facility near or in the Gulf of Mexico in October 2008. Although they wouldn't identify even potential clients, in general the operation will custom build large complete modular industrial plants of all types. These will then be barged to distant seaports whence they are taken to whatever Mordor-ian industrial facility awaits the instant industrial plant.

Confronted on the non-transparency of their process to date, agency faces were red. Clearly they would rather not have a further public hearing. Maine DEP's permit reviewer announced that the public comment period was over, but finally bent to some pressure to accept public comment to the end of the month.

Fishermen have been trying for years to have the bay dump site permanently closed.
A lobsterman said it was known to be a terrible location for a dump due to the vigorous currents that have sent the spoils spreading across the bay. Fifty years of dumping there and the bottom is still flat, he noted.

First dredging act will be removal of 'windrows of wood' on the river floor. Divers have examined it. Then about 1/2 of the total amount of mud and sand spoils that they would be licensed to discharge they are allowed to.
They may or may not use the train (RR tracks run past the site.)

Many more details, soon.

Sep 3, 2007

Paper company dredge spoils could end up off Rockland. Pub Mtg 9/11

Public Meeting on Plan to Dump Paper Mill Dredge Spoils off Rockland. September 11th,

On Tuesday, September 11, 2007, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. Maine Department of Marine Resources will host a public meeting/listening session at the Rockland Middle School, to take comments on a proposal to dump dredge spoils from Penobscot River off the former Eastern Fine Paper mill site in Brewer Maine, into the Rockland Disposal Site. The meeting will take place in the cafeteria of the Rockland Middle School 30 Broadway, Rockland.

AT ISSUE: Eastern Fine Paper Mill discharged significant quantities of dioxin and other wastes into Penobscot River. The material being dredged for the benefit of a riverfront developer i contaminated. However, the US Army Corps of Engineers decides whether the level of contamination is low enough to permit dumping at the Rockland Disposal Site Army Corps of Engineers most recent review of the dumpsite (large pdf), which is located between North Haven and Rockland, 3 and 1/2 miles from the Rockland Breakwater Lighhouse

The meeting that Maine Department of Marine Resources is hosting IS NOT A PUBLIC HEARING. Rather officials from DMR and other agencies will sit silently at a table before the public, members of which will be invited to make statements. The officials will not answer any questions. See excerpt from public notice, below

However, MRSA 38 §480-D(9) Maine state law concerning dredging (scroll down to 9. Dredging) states:
"If 5 or more persons request a public hearing within 30 days of the notice publication, the Commissioner of Marine Resources must hold a hearing."

According to the DMR's Public Notice:

The purpose of the meeting is to gather information and comments from the public on a proposal by Penobscot River Holdings, LLC and Cianbro Construction, LLC of Pittsfield to dredge approximately 33,000 cubic yards of intertidal and subtidal sediments from the Penobscot River along the shore of the former Eastern Fine Paper Mill in Brewer.

Dredged materials suitable for open water disposal would be transported by barge for disposal at the Rockland Ocean Disposal Site located approximately 3.33 nautical miles east northeasterly of the Rockland Breakwater light. Dredged materials not suitable for open water disposal would be disposed of in an upland location.
For further information contact Brian Swan, DMR at 624-6573.