Dec 12, 2008

Keep Sears Island free from Joint Privatizing Plan

Thanks to the canniness and courage of our Legislature's transportation committee, Maine has a breathing space to reexamine her relationship with Sears Island.

we are going to be respectful to Sears Island - to the memory and remnants of its 10 millenia of human occupation; to those treading her old paths and beaches today; to the quiet brackish nurseries edging its western shores, whence fish & shellfish larvae and juveniles grow, then ride the Penobscot River's ghost current down bay to the ecological engines of outer Penobscot Bay, where naural wild Maine Herself has been at pains to recolonize Sears Island for over a century now; if we are to treat teh island with the dignity and respect it deserves....

Then MDOT's grip on Sears Island needs to be loosened, and this public island's management put into the abler hands of Maine's public land and park managers in the Department of Conservation.

We'll examine, below, the Dept of Conservation statutes that are relevant to transferring Sears Island from MDOT to Maine Department of Conservation

It appears that Sears Island will fit nicely into the Public Reserved Lands division of Maine Dept of Conservation. The laws governing such lands include a guarantee that the state be able to ensure transportation access rights to the land, SHOULD NEED ARISE. But not to let successive governors continue to try to peddle the island to passing investor speculators.

NOR (and this is important) nor should the Sierra Club and others try to build their own entertainment and education and entertainment complex on Sears Island. Their buildings, with the inevitable roads, parking lots and visiting fees, will further fragment the island's ecological reservoir and destroy more of the island's 10,000 year archaeological record

There, Sears Island will continue carrying out its roles as natural recreational area and coastal Maine ecological reservoir, yet be available as needed should calamity fall and Maine require a port there. Further, this state-owned public land island should not be encumbered with a perpetual conservation easement, and the state saddled with the related legal obligations and ramifications and responsibilities such a perpetual easement requires , perpetually.

So, let's consider how Sears Island might fit into the Public Reserved Lands division of Maine Dept of Conservation to take over Sears Island, using the Dept of Conservation statutes that are relevant to transferring Sears Island from MDOT to BPL jurisdiction. For every statute there's a rule or regulation, and we'll look at them in a future post.

MRSA 12 §1815. Transfer lands to another agency; receive lands from another agency.

"The bureau [of Parks and Lands] may accept the care, custody, control and responsibility for the management of lands to be classified as state parks or historic sites from other state agencies with the written consent of the transferor agency, the Governor and the commissioner. Nothing in this section or section 1814 may be construed to negate or affect obligations of the State undertaken in any existing lease, easement or other binding agreement or obligation of the State undertaken by the acceptance of any deed or other grant of an interest in real property."

MRSA 12 §1850. Acquisition of public reserved land

1. Authority to acquire lands. With the consent of the Governor and the commissioner, the bureau may acquire lands or interests in lands on behalf of the State to be managed as public reserved lands.

When acquiring land or interest in land, the bureau shall examine options for obtaining public vehicular access rights to the land. If an acquisition is made that does not include guaranteed public vehicular access, the bureau shall describe the acquisition in its annual report submitted pursuant to section 1853 and the justification for that acquisition.

MRSA 12 §1852. Transfer or lease of public reserved lands

1. Transfer of management responsibility to other state agencies. Whenever a particular portion of the public reserved lands is to be used, under the management plan under section 1847, subsection 2, for a dominant use that is within the particular expertise of another agency of the State, the commissioner, with the consent of the Governor and the state agency involved, may transfer to that other state agency the responsibility for the management of that particular portion of the public reserved lands.

"MRSA 12 §1847. Management of public reserved lands

"1. Purpose. The Legislature declares that it is in the public interest and for the general benefit of the people of this State that title, possession and the responsibility for the management of the public reserved lands be vested and established in the bureau acting on behalf of the people of the State, that the public reserved lands be managed under the principles of multiple use to produce a sustained yield of products and services by the use of prudent business practices and the principles of sound planning and that the public reserved lands be managed to demonstrate exemplary land management practices, including silvicultural, wildlife and recreation management practices, as a demonstration of state policies governing management of forested and related types of lands."


Keeping Sears Island completely under public control must be non-negotiable - no crazy-quilt management of private land trusts, astroturf grassroots groups and whichever port developers try to run the green gauntlet.

Dec 5, 2008

Sears Island: Baldacci Biting Back.

Maine public radio news reported yesterday (mp3) that MDOT and the Governor are aggressively pressing members of the legislature's transportation committee members to abandon the Savage Plan for Sears Island, that the committee adopted late last month.

Senator Christine Savage's Plan, approved by the Transportation Committee on November 18th: "I move the compromise agreement, including the conservation easement reached by the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee, be accepted in principle, but left unsigned by this committee until a port is permitted on Sears Island. The Transportation Committee will submit a bill to the 124th Legislature, directing the Maine Department of Transportation to move forward with all practical speed to see that a port is permitted on Sears Island. Once that permit is in hand, the agreement before this committee will be signed."

Governor's response to the unanimous vote approving the Savage Plan? Bite back!

"Negotiations over a final agreement on the future of Sears Island continue, " MTC's AJ Higgins said. "At issue is a proposed cargo port that would be built on the 930 acre island near Searsport, and at least one critic of the plan says that now would be a good time to re-evaluate the approval process."

Governor Baldacci is obviously worried that he'll become a two time loser on Sears Island - in 2004 and '05 his plan for an LNG terminal was exposed then withdrawn. This time, unless he can force the Legislature's Transportation Committee to recant their unanimous approval the Savage Plan, though, that's just what is going to happen.

In the midst of this, according to Maine Things Considered, Penobscot Bay Watch and other groups have announced intentions to submit a petitionl to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection asking that it assume jurisdiction and order MDOT to obtain a planning permit before obtaining legislative approval.

Reaction to the Baldacci onslaught is mixed so far, with Senator Diamond willing to kowtow to the Guv, and Senator Damon and Representative Hogan unmoved by Baldacci's and MDOT's pleas. The rest? Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Read about Sears Island's 1990's eco-battles over a cargoport

Dec 4, 2008

Sears Island - The Smoking Guns: how Sierra Club and MCHT stopped their own Joint Use Plan

Emails from officials of Maine Sierra Club and Maine Coast Heritage Trust suggest that both NGOs were prepared to renege on their promise not to interfere with state efforts to attract and license a container port and rail yard covering the western third of Sears Island. (that is, once the MCHT had secured a permanent easement over the other six hundred acres of the island, and the Sierra Clubbers were free to begin work on a Sears Island education center program.)

Imagine these two groups' surprise when,  after reading these,  the Maine Legislature's Transportation Committee proved as faithless to them as they themselves had been toward Maine wild Nature!

From Ken Cline, Sierra Club's Conservation Chairman for Maine:

>From: kenneth cline
>Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:09 PM
>Subject: Sears Island
>Dear Mr. Gabey:
>Joan Saxe passed your message on Sears Island on to me. I am
>intrigued by your comments. In what way do you believe that Sierra
>Club has "sold out" on Sears Island. As someone who spent the better
>part of 6 years battling to save the island when very few

>environmentalists in the state seemed to know it existed, I would
>hardly sit idly by and watch it be destroyed. I am curious where you
>get your information on the matter and if that source actually has
>done anything recently on behalf of the island. If you actually care
>about the fate of the island, then write the newspapers, governor, and
>DOT to make sure that they understand how priceless a treasure Sears
>Island really is. We have ensured that 2/3 of it will be protected
>for ever, but we need all the help we can get to protect the remaining
>part. So independent of Sierra Club, I encourage you to start a
>campaign to help protect the island -- it is a much better use of your
>time than criticizing people who perhaps have the same goals as you
>and are working hard to pursue them. Please contact me if you have
>any further concerns.
>Ken Cline
>Maine Chapter Conservation Chair

From Maine Coast heritage Trust's Scott Dockerson
>----Original Message-----
From: Scott Dickerson []
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2006 8:31 AM
To: Astrig Tanguay; Tara Hollander; Jim Grossman; Nancy-Linn Nellis; Jan
Flint; Bob&Marietta Ramsdell; Lorin Hollander; Jay&McCormick Economy;
Jim Freeman; John Hyk; Buck Bulkley; Becky Bartovics; Larraine Brown;
Jane Sanford; Joan Saxe; Stephen Miller; Elizabeth Banwell; Joelle

Subject: current position. Port and Preservation--

We should expect to get some negativity from those who have not been
part of this long, negotiated SIPI process and do not have a full
understanding of our strategy.
This is how I strategically analyze the current position of the
Preservation and Port Affinity Group.

We obtain a Consensus Agreement at this time to recommend that
700-800 acres of the island will be placed under a conservation
easement and that 141-241 acres of the island may continue to be
evaluated by transportation interests as a future port facility,
under the terms of what we are negotiating for in the Consensus

The majority of the island will be permanently protected for public
access, educational uses, and conservation; AND

We will have positioned our affinity group as by far the most
rational and fair vision for the future of Sears Island, giving us
considerable political leverage for not only securing the majority of
the island for conservation now, but also to ultimately press for
conservation of the entire island; AND
Increasing utilization of the island for public access and education
will build an increasing constituency for full protection of the
island; AND

The port interests will still have to demonstrate 1) need for a
facility that cannot be served elsewhere, 2) compliance with
environmental laws, and 3) financial capacity to construct and
operate the port; AND

Many conservation and environmental interests will continue to have
the opportunity to intervene in the regulatory process to contest the
port, an intervention that has prevailed for almost 40 years.

We stand pat on our original Preservation and Port Affinity Group
vision statement;

The SIPI process arrives at stalemate except on some token agreement
items; AND
The Preservation and Port Affinity Group will lose some of its
political leverage as the rational and fair position, making future
efforts with the legislature and governor less probable for success;
All 941 acres of the island instead of only 141-241 acres remains
open for port proposals, as well as any other industrial, commercial,
or residential development proposals.

In essence, I think we gain a great deal from entering into an
effectively negotiated Consensus Agreement, and have actually
diminished the risk that the island will be developed.

Scott Dickerson, Executive Director
Coastal Mountains Land Trust
101 Mt. Battie Street
>Camden ME 04843


-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Dickerson []
Sent: Friday, December 29, 2006 1:03 PM
Cc:;; jouelle@prexar;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Subject: Re: security issues

This is how I analyze the security issue.
Our agreement to a Consensus Agreement requires that a permanent
conservation easement be placed on 700-800 acres of the island. I
estimate that placement of the conservation easement will take no
more than 12 months after the Legislature and Governor sign a bill
approving that one be placed.

If a proposal for a port comes forth soon after the Legislature and
Governor act on the Consensus Agreement, I expect that it will take
more than two years to proceed through its data gathering, planning
process, negotiation with the State for use of the island land,
financing arrangements, and permit process. The issue of port
security will be addressed during the permit process, though the
proposer of the port will be considering it during it data gathering
and planning process.

The placement of the conservation easement and associated public
access will predate the receipt of a permit for a port. Given that,
I expect that any port proposal will need to present a plan for
coexistence with the conservation easement and public access,
including across the causeway. If the port proposer choses to
attempt to stop public access, I expect that there will be a very
strong response by the public (which will have increased its activity
on the island by then) to oppose the violation of the intent of the
conservation easement and Consensus Agreement.

Again, I am offering my best estimates about probabilities. My
estimate is that once the 700-800 acres of the island are conserved
and truly open to the public, the issue of port security is likely to
either be neutral in terms of affect on public use of the
conservation area of the island, or will create another issue that
will mobilize the public to oppose the granting of a permit for the

If my analysis of the probabilities is correct, then I think we have
no reason to deal with the issue of port security impact at this
stage of the process.


Scott Dickerson, Executive Director
Coastal Mountains Land Trust
101 Mt. Battie Street
Camden ME 04843

Nov 29, 2008

Jilted Port Huggers Lament Oversight 'Poison Pill'

Several of the creators of the foundered JUPC plan for partitioning Sears Island fired back at their critics and at the Maine legislature    today with a co-signed op-ed in the weekend Bangor Daily News
Do the trio admit to having made mistakes? Of course not. Do they fault their decision to exempt their Plan from impact review under the federal highway administration's own environmental law, even though it was appropriate?  Not a bit. Do they renounce their bizarre decision to acquiesce with MDOT's demands they sacrifice hundreds more acres of the island's forests and streams than would logically be needed for a port? Nope.
From the 30 acres the state previously found an acceptable acreage for a port, did they  give up without a whimper 270 acres more of the island's forested, stream cut western shore.Ayuh.- and by definition the thousand acres of nursery shoals  in front of those 300 acres that would have to be dredged and filled? Suppose so. They never thought about that
Do they regret bypassing environmental review of their giant vague plan purely for the sake of shortening the process?  Not a bit. Like mindless robots, they were "charged by the governor" to ignore the environmental consequences  of their plan for the upper bay's brackish estuary, which a port would sit in the amidst of.  
But the rest of us know better . Stand tall, Legislature
Strip MDOT from Sears Island's title and deed. Place it under the state's Public Reserved Land status, with attendant payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to Searsport. Not under the privatizing thrall of  overgrown,  privately-held Maine Coast Heritage Trust and its hangers-on. Should a port become a necessity, the need so great it justifies biting a chunk out of the island and fish nursery shoal, why, public reserved land is legally open to such compromises. But a port isn't a necessity. as the three essayists note.  Not for the foreseeable future.  Read their essay (below or  the online version,) and weep.
They just don't get it.

Sears Island decision a missed opportunity for Maine.

On Tuesday, Nov. 18, the Joint Committee on Transportation of the Maine Legislature made a deeply flawed decision concerning the future of Sears Island. Unless corrected by future action, their vote on the recommendations presented to the committee by the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee continues indefinitely the 40-year stalemate concerning the island’s opportunities for both economic development and conservation.

The transportation committee accepted every recommendation of the JUPC, but added a contingency that poisons the potential of real progress for many years, perhaps indefinitely. The JUPC’s key recommendation is to dedicate 330 acres of the island for potential use as a marine port and 601 acres for outdoor recreation, environmental education and ecological protection.

These recommendations were developed through an intensive, 3-year planning process by more than 50 different representatives of transportation, industry, conservation, outdoor recreation, local business, state agencies and town governments. This complete spectrum of interests achieved a consensus to reach beyond gridlock and produce the first comprehensive resolution of this long-contested issue.

The poison pill that the transportation committee inserted into its decision is the contingency that before the conservation land can be established, a port proposed for the island must receive all permits. This decision was neither fair to the people of Maine nor prudent for the future of the island, as demonstrated by these facts:

The 330 acres for potential port use was delineated by DOT staff and is more than three times the area required for development of a container port.

Finding a private entity to fund and partner with the state to develop a port, design facilities, conduct studies, and proceed through regulatory review will take an unknown number years.

During the past 40 years, six major developments, including one port, have been proposed for Sears Island. Not one has ever received the permits necessary for completion.

Any permitting process for a port on the island must consider alternative sites. Improvement and-or expansion of the existing port at Mack Point might be sufficient to serve the need, further delaying satisfaction of the committee’s contingency for a permit for an island port.

A 2006 economic analysis of the conservation program as proposed for Sears Island determined that the conservation land — including a small visitor, education and maintenance center, multiuse trails and related public access facilities — would attract a projected 23,000 visitors each year who would inject $1.7 million into the economy of the region annually.

Why not commit the 601 acres to conservation now, and allow at least that portion of the island to become a performing asset for the people of Maine? Extensive research by the JUPC determined that this will not conflict with future proposals to use the 330 acres for a port.

In the meantime, the island continues to drain resources from the town of Searsport. It receives no tax revenue from the island due to state ownership, but has to provide police patrols, emergency response, trash removal and other services. Further, because there is no management of the current public use except for concrete barriers and a gate across the entrance road, ecological values of the island are being degraded.

The stalemate perpetuated by the transportation committee’s narrow decision should be corrected through action by the full Legislature, in recognition that the people of Maine have a broad set of interests in Sears Island. The balance of uses proposed by all parties through the JUPC’s recommendations encompass this breadth. The transportation committee’s decision does not.

It is time for the entire Legislature to consider the future of Sears Island, the value of the recently thwarted JUPC’s proposed compromise, and vote to take responsibility for stewardship of this important state asset.

Written by James Gillway, Dianne Smith and Scott Dickerson

James Gillway is Searsport’s town manager; Dianne Smith is co-chairwoman of the Joint Use Planning Committee; Scott Dickerson is executive director of Coastal Mountains Land Trust. All three served on the committee that crafted the compromise plan

Nov 24, 2008

Sears Island - The empire retreats.

Another happy event has transpired since the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee adopted the Savage Plan, which withholds approval of Maine Coast Heritage Trust's easement over 2/3 of the island, and establishment of an educational center, until a port and railyard is fully permitted on the remaining third.

Senator Christine Savage's motion, adopted by the committee: "I move the compromise agreement, including the conservation easement reached by the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee, be accepted in principle, but left unsigned by this committee until a port is permitted on Sears Island. The Transportation Committee will submit a bill to the 124th Legislature, directing the Maine Department of Transportation to move forward with all practical speed to see that a port is permitted on Sears Island. Once that permit is in hand, the agreement before this committee will be signed."

In a pleasing example of interagency coordination, Maine DOT has withdrawn its umbrella mitigation bank prospectus from the Army Corps of Engineers' clutches, and Army Corps has obligingly called off its Dec. 1st public meeting on said prospectus at its armory in Searsport.

The plot between government industry and suborned eco-yuppies to partition Sears Island among themselves continues to crumble. But there are other players out there...It's time to look into what the Federal Highway Administration is doing. Does the Savage Plan void the JUPC decision to forego a federal review under 49 § 303. Policy on lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites? 

That review would have to look at the likely impacts of a port to protected and managed natural, historical and recreational resources. This would have to be BEFORE any action could be taken by the legislature, as its results would inform their decision on whether a commercial port is a good idea.

Nov 22, 2008

Sears Island: Governor says port plan "inoperable".

The intrigue continues...Maine's governor and legislature slide helplessly into civil war over  integrity of environmentalists on the Joint Use Committee, who suddenly seem unwilling to honor their committment to "appropriate" port development on Sears Island

Which branch of Maine government has the final decision over the island splitting proposal?  The Governor, says Baldacci's office. JUPC is my creature. I trust the greenies.  But wait.....'We don't trust  'em, says the Legislature's Transportation Committee co-chair Senator Dennis Damon. No green payoff until AFTER a port is fully approved.   

Speaking in indignant response to the legislators, three land trust executives cry out Hold on there! This is a done deal! Give us our pound of island flesh first! Trust the Trusts!

Maine's conservative blogosphere  warns of a: "Baldacci Ready to Roll Over for Enviros on Sears Island Port"  What type of roll? "Baldacci wants to sign off on the easement and leave the port deal to the whims of enviro lawsuits."

(Indeed, legal knives can be heard sharpening, as both shade-tree enviromental advocates and Big Green Law Firms  gear up in anticipation of exploiting this target-rich environment. The many litigation-worthy and appeal worthy legal blunders that MDOT and its Committee of Fifty have committed, but tried to brush aside, in the course of their three year drive to get  Sears Island divided, are now ripe for litigation.) 

Who is correct in this struggle over the people's public property?  Read the below article and be amazed:

Action on Sears Island sought

Baldacci questions committee’s delay  
  By George Chappell BDN Staff  11/22/08

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci remains committed to a “positive and productive future for Sears Island,” his office said Thursday.

The governor expressed his disappointment with a unanimous decision by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday to leave temporarily unsigned a negotiated agreement that balanced industrial and environmental concerns over the island’s use.

“The governor believes that the Joint Use Planning Committee's Final Report struck an important balance and is disappointed that the Transportation Committee decision effectively undermined the agreement, rendering it inoperable,” said Joy Leach, deputy director of communications for the Governor's Office.

Complete article here

Nov 18, 2008

Sears Island Smackdown! Wild island saved from partition....But Baldacci may try an end run around the legislature: updates soon...

Jaws dropped, incredulous grins spread among island-huggers today as the state/eco-Yuppie plot to divvy Sears Island up into container port and conservation zones fell apart.

Listen to a 4 and a half minute mp3 of the legislature's Transportation Committe on November 18th deciding they didn't trust  the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Sierra Club, the Friends of Sears Island and other compromisers  ( 4 minute mp3)

Why? Those conservation groups had  earlier signed a deal with Governor John Baldacci divvying up Sears Island, with 2/3 donated in perpetual easement to Maine Coast Heritage Trust  and one third made available to potential container port builders.   Complete recordings of  meeting here

Under the deal, the land trust and environmental groups would be given a conservation easement and permission to build and operate an environmental center. In return they would not oppose development of a port on the west side of Sears Island.

However, the Greenies were under the impression that they would get their conservation easement immediately, with the state to take applications for port proposals at some later date.

Not so.

Thanks to a last minute surprise proposal submitted by state senator Christine Savage, and seconded by Rockland Representative Ed Mazurek,  the legislators voted to "accept in principle" the final report of the Sears Island Joint Use Committee, but  will not authorize any  conservation easement on Sears Island UNTIL a container port development on the island has first been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

No land trust conservation easement,  no Sierra Club educational center. No Friends of Sears Island's trail maintenance contract....none of those until industrial port developers begin tearing away at the forests,  streams, fern meadows,  marshy streams, saltwater fish nurseries and other natural habitats of the western side of Sears Island.

Once a ballast water belching, smog-producing  mega container port is actually under construction on Sears Island, MCHT, FOSI and Sierra Club will get their pound of  bleeding island flesh. 

Say it ain't so, Joan, Jimmy, Scott!

The joint committee on transportation  arrived at its decision after about an hour of presentations and spirited discussions.

Jim Freeman of the Friends of Sears Island, Joan Saxe of the Sierra Club and Steve Miller of the Islesboro Island Land Trust signed the "consensus agreement on Sears Island". As signatories, they will have to actively fight the many fishermen, health advocates and other environmentalists who oppose the container port hell-plan for upper Penobscot Bay. 

As this is an impossible situation for the Sierra Club, the Deal is Dead.

Why? Because it's one thing for the Sierra Club et al to be compromising sell-outs. Its another for them to actually join the enemy's ranks, as Sierra Club leaders Joan Saxe and Ken Cline, and NFN/EF! activist leader Jim Freeman are starting to understand.

Expressions of horror filled the faces of those eco-compromiser wannabes, as well as the railroad  interests, MDOT and the town reps  as they wandered out to the state capital's parking lot in bewildered knots.

Patsies. Sold out just as heartlessly as they had sold out mother nature. Now the rats begin jumping ship. As the Portland Press Herald just wrote:

"Jim Freeman, a member of the group that crafted the agreement, says the committee's action in effect voids the deal and sends the issue back to limbo."

"The Quislings are running for the hills! " chuckled long term opponent of the Joint Use Plan Ron Huber of Penobscot Bay Watch. "Run Jimmy! Run! Get on the Islesboro Ferry, Steve! Hide yourself Joan and Ken! 

For now you must fight against the fishermen, seagrass huggers and the greater conservation community and  fight for the industrial free trade container port wannabes, if you are to gain your precious educational center and perpetual easement.   How will you ENGOs explain this to your funders and your members?  "We have to destroy Sears Island to save it"?

That won't fly. There are already voices calling for the now fully discredited leaders-for-life of the Maine Sierra Club to step down and let a  younger less jaded generation of Sierrans take the helm

Awaken, eco-signers to the Governor's charge! Renounce JUPC! Repent! Rejoin the never ending defense of the natural Maine coast against industrial  encroachment.

Nov 12, 2008

Sears Island - JUPC bails out, legislators to vote 11/18/08

Having finished their dirty business, the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee has cancelled its final public meeting . One which would have given the public an opportunity to quiz the committee on the many inaccuracies and humbug in JUPC's final report As well as the myriad exceptions and vague wordings that fill the final version of the final version of the conservation easement

Of course such a meeting might have been a waste of time. Most JUPC-ites are talkative as stones at these events, and simply decline to answer the public, no matter what the question. "I'd be ashamed, too" one observer sniffed.

Onward! We must convince the Legislature's Transportation Committee to vote this bay-killing plan down. Please call them and email them. Or just send your email to Kathie Bilodeau, the transportation committee's very capable clerk, and ask her to forward it to the committee members.

Nov 4, 2008

Penobscot Bay fish habitat -what sprawl, pollution and dredging does to it

A report quite relevant to the Sears Island Question came out earlier this year - feds and scientists finally taking a long hard look at the effects in New England waters that pollution, development, dams, ballast water discharge, dredging and the whole wretched mess of nonfishing impacts does to the homes and working places of our wild fishes.

The report: Impacts to Marine Fisheries Habitat from Nonfishing Activities in the Northeastern United States, comes in a handy each-chapter-a-seperate-pdf-file format that lets you browse through it easily: (you'll have to click on the above link to read them)

Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 are helpful in understanding what harm a port on Sears Island could do. Read 'em!

Chapter One: Technical Workshop on Impacts to Coastal Fisheries Habitat from Nonfishing Activities
Chapter Two: Coastal Development
Chapter Three: Energy-related Activities
Chapter Four: Alteration of Freshwater Systems
Chapter Five: Marine Transportation
Chapter Six: Offshore Dredging and Disposal Activities
Chapter Seven: Chemical Effects—Water Discharge Facilities
Chapter Eight: Physical Effects—Water Intake and Discharge Facilities
Chapter Nine: Agricultures and Silviculture
Chapter Ten: Introduced/Nuisance Species and Aquaculture
Chapter Eleven: Global Effects and Other Impacts
Chapter Twelve: Compensatory Mitigation

Conclusions and Recommendations

Oct 23, 2008

Deal of Shame: Fall '08 ME Sierra Club newsletter omits Sears Island!

It was positively astonishing to open the very latest newsletter from the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club that arrived in the Penobscot Bay Watch post office box.

Surely, I thought, Sears Island must be the top feature - the Club's Gordian knot-cutting courage and cleverness adopting the "historic" Joint Use consensus compromise also praised by land trusters, Governor and railroad baronet alike.

No. Nothing. Not a word about Sears island.

Shouldn't the eight page Maine Sierra Club chapter newsletter be awash in minutiae of the MDOT plan this 940 acre island that the Club signed onto? The one splitting Sears Island into natural and industrial port zones.

For now the final steps loom:

MDOT must secure approval by the Legislature's transportation Committee of its Joint Use plan. Especially its private conservation easement with MCHT on 600 acres of public land on the 941 acre island Should this approval be granted (and this is by no means a sure thing) then a shadowy container port developer waiting in the wings will stride forth into the glare of the public spotlight.

UPDATE: According to an Army Corps of Engineers official, if the legislature approves the Joint Use Plan, the Corps expects to receive a Sears Island port development application before the end of November.

But according to the "Deal" that Maine Sierra Club signed months ago, the Club is committed to acquiescing in that developer's port plan, as long as it meets environmental standards. The Club can hardly protest that the island is not a good location, for as signatory to the Baldacci Consensus Agreement on Sears Island, Sierra Club's official position must be that the island is an "appropriate" location for one.

But in the newsletter not a word on 'port-appropriate' Wassumkeag.

Alas, Wasumkeag! "Island of the Shining Shore" to the Wabanakis for so many thousands of years! Both natural Noah's ark of coastal Maine plant and animal species, and a sheltering lea behind which Penobscot Bay's most important fish nursery and anadromous fish staging areas carry out their brackish water ecological duties, uniting river, bay and Gulf of Maine! Industrial sprawl is imminent.

For the leadership of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club is comfortable with Sears Island as but one more "issue" to use as bargaining chip in the unending game of influence in Statehouse evironmental politics. The chapter's webpage on Sears Island hasn't been updated in six months.

The rank and file of the Maine Sierra Club Chapter, it has been decided, won't be allowed to vote on whether their conservation group should stand shoulder to shoulder with a container port developer. Tsk Tsk.

No mention?

The Fall 2008 edition of the Maine Sierran discusses a lot of other things. It endorses four candidates, ponders transboundary forestry between Maine and Canada, invites one to "Sierra Club Maine's Annual Dinner", November 14th in Freeport; frowns upon continuing Bush admin machinations against the Clean Water Act; admits to being "stunned" when LURC gave Plum Creek a preliminary OK to commit sprawl at Moosehead Lake. Joan Saxe praises Governor Baldacci's "right direction on Rail Transportation"; two wind turbine proposals get the nod; "informed growth" regulations are examined, and a number of outings and hikes are offered. But, .......

Not a peep about Sears Island .

In 2005, Club leaders promised to "permanently protect the natural heritage and public access legacies of Sears Island"

Where did that promise go?

Oct 15, 2008

Sears Island - Legislators don't trust Sierra Club

Better no Sears Island plan than this flawed one.

A sentiment shared by pro-porters and anti-porters at today's statehouse meeting. (though not held by the JUPCians)

Inside packed room 126 of the Statehouse today, members of the Joint Committee on Transportation reacted with suspicion to the latest version of the Sears Island Joint Use Committee's plan brought before them. LISTEN TO RECORDINGS FROM THE EVENT HERE

This latest iteration grants ENGO Maine Coast Heritage Trust a perpetual conservation easement over 600 acres of the 940 island, while simultaneously opening the western third of the island to industrial port development.

Opponents of the port plan have been suggesting to committee members that the lengthy draft conservation easement contains wording in its fine print that will give the Sierra Club and Maine Coast Heritage Trust the ability to fend off any future port plan.

The whisper campaign seems to have worked. After listening to Transportation Commissioner Cole presentation, and following a lengthy question & answer session, the committee decided

(1) They would not vote on approving or disapproving the still-incomplete Joint use Plan (there are still issues with the exact wording of the easement) , and

(2) they didn't trust Sierra Club, Friends of Sears Island and Penobscot Bay Alliance not to turn around once the legislature signed off on the JUPC plan and and stab them in the back by suddenly bringing anti port litigation up when a container port wanabe rears its head.

Lush photographs of the island taken a few days earlier proved popular with committee members, though Chairman Damon took umbrage at the term "sacrifice zone" that accompanied the online picture gallery of the natural environment in the proposed port zone that he was referring to.

There'll be another legislature meeting on Sears Island next month. Who knows what will happen?

Oct 14, 2008

Sears Island - Legislators to get JUPC "progress" report & citizen opposition in the statehouse wednesday

Sears Island defenders to rally Wednesday outside Legislative committee hearing on island port/conservationist plan.

Augusta. On Wednesday October 15th 10 am in Room 126 of the Statehouse, MDOT, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Sierra Club of Maine will give a progress report to the Maine Legislature's Transportation Committee on their Sears Island Joint Use Plan. The plan includes a proposed perpetual conservation easement on the eastern 600 acres of the island. In turn, MDOT will be allowed to designate the western 300 acres of Sears Island and more than 200 acres of intertidal land as an industrial port development zone.

Critics of the divide-the-island plan, including representatives of Fair Play for Sears Island and Penobscot Bay Watch, the Maine Green Independent Party, and numerous individual citizens of Maine - say legislative approval of the proposed division of the island would ignite a fast track for would-be container port developers along the side of the island facing Searsport.

Such a port would threaten Penobscot Bay's natural groundfish and salmon nursery shoal and degrade what scientists agree is the unique and irreplaceable combination of island/nearshore brackish waters ecosystems, which together host members of virtually all Maine coastal species, land and marine.

"Just leave this natural Noah's Ark alone," said Harlan McLaughlin of Fair Play for Sears Island

The Transportation Committee will be asked to approve giving Maine Coast Heritage Trust a 600 acre perpetual conservation buffer easement over the east side of Sears Island, with the right to develop a wal-mart-sized tax-exempt educational and entertainment complex within this "protected" area, and to charge admission to get on the island when hosting certain events.

The shipping industry gets the tacit nod by Sierra Club to terraform 300 acres of wetland-laced forest, and 100 acres of intertidal area, along the west and south sides of Sears Island. There the industry may clearcut, blast, bulldoze and grade the island, as long as the state's development standards are met.

"there they may build and operate a water-polluting, air quality-reducing, groundfish nursery-dredging, noisemaking container port and railyard/truckyard complex," said Ron Huber of Penobscot Bay Watch - "A stake in the brackish water heart of upper Penobscot Bay's estuary, with implications for the outer Bay fisheries."

This will reduce the quality of life of those living in the upper and lower bay towns - humans and wildlife alike! "You couldn't pick a worse place to portify," he said.

Another victim of the Sears Island affair, said Huber, is the reputation of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, "which abandoned decades of protecting Sears Island in favor of a highly questionable win-win deal with industry." Huber said. Worse, Sierra Club's support for the Joint use Plan was made by a small select group of club officials. The state membership was not polled on whether or not the Club should support MDOT's Sears island plan.

Sears Island is the largest undeveloped coastal island on the Atlantic coast of the United States.

Let's keep it that way.

For more information contact:

Ron Huber, Penobscot Bay Watch 207-691-7485
Harlan McLaughlin, Fair Play for Sears Island. 207-548-9962

# # #

Oct 2, 2008

Sears Is. JUPC-ian bobble-heads try to shrug off the Sacrifice Zone.

"It's not Joint Use Planning you've been carrying out; it's Single Use Planning."

So said Ron Huber on behalf of Penobscot Bay Watch and Fair Play for Sears
Island at the October 3rd meeting of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee.

The response (in so many words:) sorry! not our department. We don't have to care about the pollution and habitat loss that the Second Joint Use -port construction- would bring.

Why not?

Because Governor Baldacci only "tasked us" with protecting the easement area. That was the answer, summarized . Everyone nodded emphatically. They didn't HAVE to care about the other part of the island. Let the chips fall there as they may. Let that rabid dog sleep....we'll deal with it after it awakens and starts biting into the island.

After all, the land trusters have got their pound of flesh, all 600+ acres of it; the Sierra Club gets to host group events at a Wal-Mart sized educational/recreational complex plopped unceremoniously into the midst of the island's so-called "protected" area; the port wannabes have got carte blanche to do what they wilt in the western part of the island.

Huber presented copies of a "Transportation Area Advisory Council" proposal put togther by Fair Play for Sears Island and Penobscot Bay Watch to JUPC's members at the beginning of the meeting and gave a brief intro outlining the main points:

* In any conceiveable configuration of an industrial port, the 330 acre'Marine Transportation Zone" would be subject to the environmental impacts of dredging, land clearing and the chronic waste discharges associated with port, trucking and rail development and operation.

* An advisory council of scientific and environmental NGOs and agencies is needed to provide guidance to MDOT and other state agencies when they review development proposals and on carrying out environmental management of the 330 acre site and its abutting 120 acre nursery shoal.

The council membership could be (groups and agencies listed only as examples)

• Maine Department of Environmental Protection,
• Maine Department of Conservation;
• Maine Department of Marine Resources
• Fair Play For Sears Island
• Conservation Law Foundation
• Penobscot Bay Stewards
• University of Maine School of Marine Sciences
• Downeast Lobstermens' Association
• Midcoast Fishermens Alliance

Huber then used the public comment period at the close of the meeting to point out the importance of aggressive oversight of the marine port zone. He twitted their failure as a committee to get beyond planning solely for the "single use" of managing the on-island auditorium, nature center and hiking trails within the 640 acre portions of eastern and southeastern Sears Island, under a "perpetual" easement to be given Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

The 330 acre sacrifice zone and its adjoining fish nursery shoal? What about that? Is there no Planning for Sears island's "second use" of hosting an industrial port? Are MDOT's Joint Use Planners planning... not to plan? Just react to whatever port development wannabe shows up?

No planning on how to limit damage to Penobscot Bay's productive fisheries, tourism and recreation industries from the handful of possible commercial/industrial port types that could conceivably be built on Sears Island?

Compare this to the RTAC work done on the highways of the state. The Regional Transportation Advisory Committees went over the highways and bridges of our state with fine toothed combs.

So here's MDOT, the Sierra Club, the land trustees and otherJUPC-ites, studiously taking not the slightest interest or even notice of the shipping and port industries' pack of 800 pound gorillas poised to dredge, blast and bulldoze their way onto the island.

Or if they do, 'it's only to squint nearsightedly and say "Look! Something warm and fuzzy!"

Oct 1, 2008

Sears Island! JUPC meets10/3/08, noon. Shall the sacrifice zone stay off the table?

Another meeting - perhaps the ultimate Joint Use Planning Committee meeting? - shall be held October 3rd noon to 3pm at the Searsport Congregational Church.

Nearing the end of its mandated life, the Committee staggers toward its finish line, flogged ruthlessly by MDOT Commissioner Cole. There it hopes to hand off a completed sellout, splitting the island into kill zone and conservation zone, to a skeptical legislature.

Said mission accomplished, JUPC will give up the ghost; but out of its corrupted remains shall arise a new entity, a rather oily Phoenix, its eye fixed firmly on the conservation piece of the island, its tail cocked at the sacrifice zone's hundreds of acres of forest and eelgrass.

This Frankensteinian Son of JUPC will be the creme de la creme or should we say the slime de la slime condensed from JUPC's membership, sworn to steadfastly ignore the industrial savagery to be waged against the western side of Wassumkeag, while dealing harshly, ruthlessly against litter bugs or fern poachers in the conservation zone.

Will the meeting hall at the Congregational Church in Searsport susurate with murmuring voices of surrender, or resound with cries of disagreement with the ongoing machinations of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee,

The 300 acre industrial zone.
This area, the most at risk of harm, the most in need of detailed and cautious oversight, has been completely abandoned by the moderate conservation groups, compromisers like Sierra Club's

For while the list of do's and don'ts regarding the conservation zone expands like popcorn, the list of do's and don'ts on industrial activity and the permissible levels of degradation of the abandoned portion of the island and adjoining bay remains at zero. Nada. Zip. A ghost.

The unspoken 800,000 ton gorilla hulking on the western third of the island, poised to rip up its forests, fill in its fern gullies, culvert its brooks and dredge away its seagrasses shall not be acknowledged.

This studied blindness among JUPC members needs at least to be acknowledged

Sep 29, 2008

LURC locked down by earth First! over Plum Creek

Four Maine Earth First!ers are locked down in the office of the Land Use Regulatory Commission, demanding the Land Use Reggers come out and explain how they decided to coddle Plum Creek and blow off the nearly two thousand Mainers opposed to the plumcreeking of Lily Bay and beyond.

Penobscot Bay Blog reached two people on the scene and recorded interviews with them and documented the voices of the locked down and those of the security agencies trying to control the thoroughly muckled situation.

Stay tuned...

Sep 19, 2008

GOM and Pen Bay weather buoys in funding trouble

"Due to a $450,000 shortfall, the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GOMOOS) may have to remove five of the eleven buoys they have currently in Maine and Canadian waters."

Such sad news and wholly indicative of the misguided priorities of the present administration that it is willing to risk the safety and reduce the prosperity of Maine's commercial fishing fleets.
One of those at risk is the West Penobscot Bay buoy

As GOMOOS 's web editor tersely noted "..buoy F will likely be removed during the Fall 2008 deployment. " More details from GOMOOS HERE

Sep 1, 2008

Good and Evil clash on Sears Island

The drama: "Travesty Island," took place Sunday afternoon near the gate at the north end of our publicly owned island. Listen to 'Travesty Island'. Read the script.

A theatrical event in protest of plans to open Sears Island to development and in support of the island's wild nature, Travesty Island takes issue with the decision by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Islesboro Island Land Trust and Sierra Club's Maine chapter, to support the Baldacci administration plan to designate more than a third of Sears Island as a 'marine transportation area', called by some the Wasumkeag ecological sacrifice zone.

In the pageant, giant "Grim Reaper" figures personifying the forces of industrial sprawl and ecological destruction faced off against a thin line of defenders barring them from the island, led by a Green Knight. Representatives of the island's wild animals and its marine life, its old forests and its fertile ferns and eelgrass beds defended their island home in a green wall.
They triumphed! Nature, in the guise of the goddess Diana, rose from the coffin of Sears Island port plan, resplendent. The porties were vanquished.

Aug 30, 2008

Sears Island Sunday: after the barbecue, join the dramatic theater on the causeway.

After chewing the fat at the FOSI barbecue on Sunday at the corner of Rte 1 and Sears Island road, (located a few miles north of downtown Searsport) Then follow the drums and giant puppets down Sears Island road to the Sears Island causeway.

There, a dramatic play featuring the forces of natural land and sea life defying the forces of Industry, which loom up in the form of giant walking Grim Reaper puppets, while drums throb warning across the bay and harbors.

There on the island grab a mask or costume or drum, or bring your own! Musicans, singers, speechifiers: a PA system will be set up. Bring your mando, your guitar or bagpipes or ...whatever! Sing a paean to wild Wassumkeag!

After the drama ends, join a somber yet energizing walk though the 300 acre island forest sacrifice zone that the aforementioned "Friends" of Sears Island proposes to abandon to deforestation and paving over by incoming port wannabes and a colkdhearted MDOT. Go figure!

Aug 26, 2008

Sears Island - JUPC rides again - Sept 5th noon.

Once again the Searsport Congregational Church's public meeting hall will resound with false assurances and ringing indignation as the Sears Island Joint Use Committee (JUPC) goes through its final throes of exuding an agreement for perusal by the Maine legislature's Transportation and (we hope) Marine Resources Committees.
All welcome and urged to attend. Listen to eight port opponents earlier this year at a JUPC meeting

Clever state negotiators have bamboozled Maine's Sierra Club Chapter, three land trusts and
even an Earth First! leader into signing an agreement with Maine DOT that declares the western face of the island - adjacent to the bay nursery - industrial port-appropriate.
Listen to a debate earlier this summer between Sierra Club and Fair Play for Sears Island

See maps and aerial photos of Sears Island

Come add your voices to the discussion - public can speak at start and end of the meeting. tell them yo're concerned with the poor review of offsite impacts - direct and indirect- that would comje with a new industrial port containers or otherwise) would have on Penobscot Bay. Or just listen and be amazed by the dogged - if delusory - discussion as the Joint Users slouch toward Jerusalem-on-the-Kennebec aka the State Capitol.

Aug 23, 2008

Asticou's Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples from Castine to Gouldsboro 1500–2000

The Wabanaki have lived in the Penobscot Bay area and elsewhere along the New England coast for about twelve thousand years. A recent free e-book: Asticou's Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island 1500–2000, offers a look back into their lives.

Much has been lost The European invasions of the 16th and 17th centuries brought smallpox, cholera and influenza, diseases against which the Wabanaki had no natural immunities. The e-book notes that

"These scourges, added to the lethal combination of firewater and firearms, almost wiped Maine’s indigenous coastal peoples from the face of the earth. Within a few decades, up to 90 percent of the Wabanaki perished in this American Indian holocaust."

Ninety percent!

Asticou's Island Domain only treats upon those later years of the Wabanaki's stewardship of our area from East Penobscot Bay to Frenchman's Bay.

An important read. The book is available as two pdf files Click Here

Aug 22, 2008

'Travesty Island' pageant on Sears Island August 31

"Travesty Island," a free theatrical event to protest plans to develop Sears Island, will be held Sunday, August 31, at 1 p.m. near the gate at the north end of the publicly owned island.

The event is intended to draw attention to the Baldacci Administration's second effort to build an unneeded industrial port on what is now the largest remaining totally wild island in public hands on the East Coast, and to chide several conservation groups for supporting the plan.

In the pageant, giant "Grim Reaper" figures personifying the forces of industrial sprawl and ecological destruction will face off against a thin line of defenders barring them from the island, led by the Green Knight and Diana, goddess of all things wild. Representatives of the island's wild animals and its marine life, its old forests and its fertile eelgrass beds will also be there defending their island home. Who will triumph?

Come cheer on the forces of creation and nature against those of destruction. Want to be part of this family-friendly pageant? There's still time! Call 548-2950 or 323-2757. Or just show up at the island at Sunday at 1pm. Bring a mask, a drum or other instrument, or just you and your friends.

In addition to the Governor, the pageant will criticise the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Coastal Mountains Land Trust, Islesboro Island Land Trust and several other groups for signing onto an agreement that terms a Sears Island industrial port "appropriate" - even though it will mean the outright paving over of some 40 percent of the 941-acre island, and would badly fragment the eelgrass-laden nursery shoal edging the island.

In return the Baldacci Administration will hand over control of the island's remaining 600 acres to those groups, and allow them to build a major development of their own there – a multimillion-dollar "EcoWorld Theme Park" involving up to 10,000 square feet of roofed structures and a complex of access roads and parking lots.

"The Maine Sierra Club and the land trusts are providing green cover for a port project that ought to be setting off alarms in anyone who values our fast-dwindling natural resources," says Peter Taber of Searsport, one of those taking part in the "Travesty Island" pageant.

Directions: Take the Sears Island Road located on Route 1, two miles north of downtown Searsport on Route 1. The road ends on the causeway to the island. Look for the banners.

For more information: Ron at 691-7485 Suzanne at 548-2950 or Peter at 323-2757.


Aug 10, 2008

Army Corps of Engineers: No public hearing on MDOT Umbrella Mitigation Bank plan.

No Wild Place in Maine is Safe. The US Army Corps of Engineers has decided not to hold a public hearing on MDOT's Umbrella Mitigation Bank Plan. (rich text file)

This despite the Corps receiving:
"...10 letters in opposition, 7 of which contained public hearing requests, 0 letters in support of the project, and 4 letters which either requested more information or simply raised points about the banks or its potential candidate projects."

Those ten letters, according to the Lt Colonel who initialed the decision, were pretty specific on a variety of topics:

"a. The UMB lacks any specific site or sites and/or standards for those sites.

"b. The bank review process has not addressed various key points or raises concerns about short-cutting the permit process such as:

"c. The UMB proposes to use biophysical region service areas within the entire State of Maine rather than watershed service areas which are referenced throughout the Mitigation Rule.

"d. The UMB prospectus lacks sufficient clarity and detail.

"e. There will be specific sites proposed which themselves are of concern for a variety of issues: Sears Island and Sherman Marsh

"f. MaineDOT should not be both permit applicant and bank sponsor because that causes a conflict of interest.

"g. MaineDOT is not qualified to be a bank sponsor due to the unknown quality of their past mitigation efforts.

"h. The establishment of a bank in Maine is precedent- setting.

"i. Mitigation generally has a poor track record."

In essence ACOE's response to these was 'Don't worry, trust MDOT, and even if you don't, relax because: " furthermore, each proposal will be fully vetted by an interagency review team."

How reassuring! As if 7 & 1/2 years of Bush administration reorganizing of those very agencies hasn't made such review teams mere rubberstampers for industry getting its way!

Read for yourself Cover Letter and Army Corps Decision

Sears Island isn't safe, now.

Aug 7, 2008

Sears Island planning - before it went off track

The good old days...

Sears Island preservationists prevail at meeting

Monday, June 26, 2006 - Bangor Daily News by Tom Groening

BELFAST - Those wanting to preserve Sears Island in a mostly natural state were out in force on Saturday at a daylong information gathering session, and their vision for the state-owned island dominated discussions.

The facilitated meeting at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center drew more than 60 participants. It is the first of two sessions in which public input is being gathered by a steering committee to guide a planning process for the 941-acre island, linked to the mainland in Searsport by a causeway. ... The Saturday session used a process that allowed participants to brainstorm ideas for an agenda and then meet in small groups to flesh them out.


"Sue Inches of the State Planning Office and Jonathan Reitman read the summaries of the small group sessions and created a list of the dominant topics:

  • Gathering more information on Mack Point's capacity, shipping trends, and the value of nonport development.
  • Restoring the natural habitat on the island and returning a tidal flow through the causeway.
  • Finding a balance between conservation and compatible economic development and fisheries.
  • Creating a people- and nature-friendly ecotourism experience on the island.
  • The need for coordinated management of current and future island uses.
  • Drawing up principles to guide development.
  • Keeping the steering committee process open and transparent."
end excerpt Full Article

How did things get so far off track?


Jul 27, 2008

Sears Island! Full circle fair panel says: Don't sink natural Noah's Ark

Blue Hill hosts the Full Circle Fair once again, and this time defenders of wild Sears Island will hold forth on one of the stages. Their message is clear:

* A natural Noah's Ark. Sears Island hosts nearly every coastal Maine plant and animal and marine species, in an irreplaceable mix of upland, wetland, intertidal and marine habitats.

* MDOT plan will torpedo this ark! Will fragment and outright destroy 100s of acres of these habitats. Juvenile cod and salmon will lose the Sears Island shoal

* Noise and stench of port operations will permanently reduce upper bay air quality. Will drive wildlife away from remaining “protected” areas outside port boundaries. Ship traffic will drive fish away from nursery grounds.

* Container ports never stop growing - will consume whole island over time.

* So-called ‘Joint Use Plan’, will fast-track port sprawl on Sears Island. Compromiser Sierra Club leaders support MDOT plan; won’t poll membership!

2. GET ON THE ISLAND Take the Sears Island Road, north of downtown Searsport, straight to the island. Park on the causeway. Forests and meadows straight ahead, Beaches and tidepools to left and right. Take your pick!

3. GET THE MESSAGE. No splitting Sears Island into industrial port zone and remainder natural zone. The island ecology and the adjacent fish nursery shoal are too small not to be harmed by constructing and operating a 300 acre container port.

4. GET CONNECTED Call or email these groups. Save the island & save the bay
Fair Play for Sears Island 548-9962
Penobscot Bay Watch 691-7485

5. GET MOVING! Time is running out! Help save the island and bay today.
Help plan and take part in creative, educational and scientific activities to bring the risks to Sears Island to the attention of Maine’s greater public. Join the on-island fun. Show wild Maine you care about her.

It's as simple as that.

Jul 25, 2008

Sears Island - JUPC to wrap up in September. Then...?

The current dealmaking over the island the Joint Use Committee appears to be finally sputtering to its conclusion. According to Tanya Mitchell's July 24 article at the Republican Journal, the committee, which is expected to finish its draft conservation easement in September, has once again revised its plan. this time adding a third party environmental watchdog, possibly MDEP. Possible someone else.

Mitchell wrote:
"The [Joint Use Planning Committee] easement draft also includes new language regarding a "third-party enforcer," which in the case of Sears Island would be the state Department of Environmental Protection. "

"Adding DEP, said Ulbrich, [MCHT] serves as a back-up plan to ensure the easement remains a strong document into the future. "It gives them the right to enforce restrictions of the easement if we [MCHT] fall down on the job," she said."

Okay... MDEP can be reasonably responsive given enough pressure from the public. How about DMR? The biggest 'fall down on the job' is going to be the savaging and ravaging of the seagrass areas and the nursery shoal edging the island, by dredging and operation of vessels at the port - if it were ever built. Is MDEP up to that? Where's the Department of Marine Resources? Its the eelgrass, people.

Jul 17, 2008

Taming the Island. Wasumkeag mowed.

From: Soulful Sea:
Well, I know I’m kind of a sentimental sort. Maybe a bit of a kook, but tonight when I arrived on the island I was shocked and saddened to see that the mowing tractor had been on the island. I can’t tell you how bugged I was to see my grasses and flowers and ferns and berries all taken down by a mowing tractor that had been on the island.

I know some poor sap prolly thought he was doing a good thing…. Protecting the innocents from the encroaching forest….

I can’t tell you how bugged I was to see my grasses and flowers and ferns and berries all taken down.I’m sure he probably had extra gasoline in his tractor or maybe he just needed to work a few more hours in his day……

But god damit…. It really pisses me off. I mean, why was there a need to cut down the wild plants today? Why the hell are they busy pushing aside barricades to run a tractor up on the island to cut down the plants?

It’s just that I have a relationship with so many of them. I love the tall grasses and the soft ferns and the flowers……

Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature.. –Tolle

If only they knew how sweet the scent of milk weed is at dawn….

Jul 12, 2008

Sears Island JUPC meets July 18 noon-3pm, Searsport

Friday, July 18, from Noon-3pm, join the Joint Use Planning Committee at the First Congregational Church, 8 Church Street, Searsport. This will be their first get together since getting a hostile reception at their Belfast Public Info Event Everyone is welcome. Bring your recorders
At that event, the MDOT -sponsored group got an earful over its 'product' after all this time, years into the MDOT NGO Committee concensus process.

Still far short of what would needed to successfully protect the bay and the wild island itself from the negatives associated with an industrial port.

MDOT has not made its draft agendas available yet.

Jun 26, 2008

Sears Island "deal" opposition swells; JUPC-ites confronted at 6/25/08 public meeting

A glum row of Joint users Wednesday night felt the wrath of island and bay huggers ....The audience, the public who attended the presentation and question and answer session overwhelmingly oppose ANY development on Sears Island. Listen to all audio recordings from meetings.
Following the introductory remarks ,
MDOT and Maine Coast heritage Trust tried the argument that Sears Island faces total development should the state not get what it wants this instant. They tried to raise spectres of residential sprawl covering the entire island. But the people Wednesday night weren't buying it

A series of public speakers followed the dog and pony show. A local resident whose loved ones ashes were scattered on Sears Island spoke with sorrow at the thought of the deceased being under thundering container port. She was followed by members of port opponent group Fair Play for Sears Island A resident of South Thomaston spoke of the contradictions between the state's process and the reality of the island.

As Harlan McLaughlin noted, Sears Island is managed pursuant to passed into law LD 277. The bill requires legislative approval for any new uses to the present natural areas with transmission towers. Not to mention the existing MOU between Searsport and MDOT that gives already gives control of the 600 acres to Searsport....and Searsport has land use ordinances.

No, the real danger, Mclaughlin warned, the real danger of development comes from the port wannabes and the eco-world people.

Others spoke; some passionately, some with disdain for the secrecy and political maneuvering of the MDOT process that had brought the island and bay to this situation.

Maine state senator Dennis Damon attended. Chair of both the legislature's transportation committee and its marine resources committee, Damon has made MDOT's Sears Island port plan a priority in the Transportation Committee. Yet, despite the well understood serious impacts to Penobscot Bay's marine fisheries that would stem from a port being built athwart the bay's most important groundfish and wild salmon nursery area, Damon has not broached the subject of the port plan at all with the marine resources committee.

Asked by Penobscot Bay Watch executive director Ron Huber during the Q&A session that closed the event if he would schedule a Sears Island review at the Marine Resources Committee, the senator first suggested that the legislature's conservation committee might be a better venue. But pressed on the marine fishery impacts being worthy of the marine resources committee's attention, Senator Damon agreed to bring the topic up with that committee. Huber met later with Damon and discussed the kinds of materials that the committee should receive.

Scot Dickerson of Maine Coast Heritage Trust seemed peeved at the growth in opposition to the port plan and delivered a closing statement dismissive of the natural resources of the island and warning of terrible consequesnces fo the island if the port plan was not adopted.