Mar 27, 2008

Sears Island: Does JUPC's reach exceed its grasp?

Critics of the port+park plan unfolding under the auspices of the Sears Island Joint Planning Committee say that the level of expertise on conservation and environmental issues that are endemic to the plan fall far short of what is needed. See map

But the Federal Highway Administration has washed its hands of Sears Island, recently declaring it has no requirement to review what is presently a state action.

Thus it is up to the state of Maine to provide the scrutiny of the plan's likely impacts to Penobscot Bay's fishery generally, to the island's eelgrass meadows, and upland wildlife and vegetation.

Maine DOT's process for Sears Island is remarkably similar to Plum Creek's plan for the Moosehead Lake region: ambitious development plan, but woefully short on detail.

Very little has been revealed - proposal for three lines of track , a new heavy duty roadway, MDOT request for realignment to allow 7,000 foot trains on-island. MDOT clearly has more than a vague fuzzy idea of what is up its sleeve for Wassumkeag, as the Native Americans call this gorgeous keystone island.

Plum Creek's paucity of detail when they unveiled their plan set off a public outcry that lead to the lengthy comprehensive public hearings, where every detail of the company's plan and its impact to the natural environment was made clear.

It is time for this to happen to the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee's plan for the future development of sears island. Let's bring MDOT's plans for the island into sharp focus, and let the public and the myriad state and federal agencies with decades of expertise on the island come forth and explain to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection what is at stake.

Under Maine statute called "Site Law", Section MRSA 38 sec 485-1-C. Approval of future development sites, the Department of Environmental Protection can require a would-be large scale developer to apply for a "Planning Permit" for any:

"development within a specified area and within specified parameters such as maximum area, groundwater usage and traffic generation, although the specific nature and extent of the development or timing of construction may not be known at the time the permit is issued. "

Sound familiar? Let's find out if the Maine Board of Environmental Protection will give this a hard look. Watch this space...


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