Apr 9, 2008

Sierra Club supports industrializing Sears Island

Say it ain't so, Joan !

Shocking but true, the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club under the leadership of Joan Saxe has endorsed the building of an industrial port on Sears Island - a natural island long a preservation jewel in Sierra Club's crown. (The area in green would be sacrificed to industry.)

Read A summary of the present and a historic record of the past Sears Island situation

How the Sierra Club - which almost singlehandedly prevented the creation of a port there in the 1990s, and again in 2004 - allows its Maine chapter to spend meeting after meeting debating with captains of industry and government officials at meetings of the Sears Island Planning Initiative, tamely acquiescing in converting a third of the 900 acre island into an industrial sacrifice zone, with dreadful consequences for downbay fisheries--has perplexed many.

Sierra Club re-founder David Brower must be spinning in his grave!

Maine Sierra Club member Ken Cline, whose legal wizardry saved the island from woodchip port-dom in the 90s, now hunkers down on Mount Desert Island, tending his student flock at COA. His powerful defiance of the collective furies of John McKernan, Angus King, Olympia Snowe and the global transportation industry in steadfast defence of Sears Island and Penobscot Bay now oddly damped to conspicuous silence.

Vivian Newman - toughest and smartest of them all, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club's National Marine Wildlife and Habitat Committee, frequent visitor to Sears Island, sworn to defend that which the Maine chapter's leader Joan Saxe has signed off a death warrant upon; seriously vexed by the direction things are going - Maybe she will rise to the occasion

One of the raisons d'etre for the Club's NMFWC is to "Build national and regional networks to support the work of chapters and groups on other coastal/marine issues as needed, including coastal development, shoreline erosion, ports and navigational dredging; provide information, technical assistance, and referrals."

That's what Sierra Club has always done, to the great benefit of Natre.

On July 18, 1994, the Sierra Club (and CLF) sued MDOT for violating the Clean Water Act in building the causeway, clearing land and filling wetlands on the island. A Consent Decree was signed three years later, on April 9, 1997. When the dust had settled, MDOT had been ordered to:

"restore 3.2 acres of wetlands at the cargo terminal site on Sears Island, restore and enhance a 0.75 acre wetland on south-central Sears Island, provide streambank stabilization and wetlands enhancement at Dyer Creek in North Newcastle, Maine, and expend at least $100,000 on the acquisition and conservation of Atlantic Salmon habitat on the Ducktrap River." Note: the
final consent agreement item, protecting Ducktrap River salmon habitat was recently met.

Sierra Club's national magazine touted the protection of Sears Island as "A wetland win" The club's then-president J. Robert Cox wrote:
"Combatting the Maine Department of Transportation's plans to build a cargo port at Sears Island made the last 13 years busy ones for Maine Sierra Club activists. Though the 940-acre island in Penobscot Bay provided habitat for 70 percent of the state's wetland species as well as an important flyway for neotropical birds, the agency rejected an alternative site at industrialized Mack Point. The agency flouted environmental law by neglecting to prepare an environmental impact statement and then, when forced by a Sierra Club lawsuit, delivered an EIS that ignored 200 acres of freshwater wetlands on the island. Each time the agency submitted redesigns for the port, Sierra Club lawsuits showed them to be inadequate. Club activists rejoiced when the Army Corps of Engineers finally rejected the project this February."

Is there rejoicing now among club activists?
No? Why not?

The Maine Chapter's first statement this latest go-round on Sears Island, titled
“Preservation and Port: a Recipe for Prosperity is on their website

The statement starts off well, noting

"The Sears Island Planning Initiative is uniquely charged by the Baldacci Administration with developing recommendations for the future use of the 940-acre island in Penobscot Bay. If implemented, the recommendations could end thirty years of public controversy."

It continues by calling for "permanently protecting Sears Island as an educational and recreational asset", while encouraging "full utilization of Mack Point, using best available management practices, to address the financial needs of Searsport and its transportation connections with Central and Northern Maine. "

Again it states "that the entirety of Sears Island be conserved, and that trails and management facilities be improved to fulfill its future as a regional ecotourism asset, also supporting the local economy."

The statement closes with a flourish: "The Port supported; the Island protected -- A Win/Win scenario."

Current economic and shipping information indicates that Mack Point has the potential to satisfy all marine transportation needs of Maine’s central region for the foreseeable future.

In bland sprawl-speak the Maine Chapter describes its position on Sears Island thusly:

"In a win/win scenario for jobs and preservation, participants in the Sears Island Planning Initiative announced their proposal Preservation and Port: a Recipe for Prosperity." (rtf file)

What?... Hello.....? Sierra Club?


Peter Taber, Publisher, Wild Maine Times said...

You are too kind, Ron. Whether through social cowardice or stupidity, Joan Saxe has signed the Sierra Club's good name onto an outrageous agreement. However, she is not alone in this malfeasance. A visitor to the Maine chapter's website would hardly know that its efforts are committed to anything other than preservation of this publicly owned wild island in its entirety. Both at a page on issues the Maine chapter is taking up in 2008 [http://maine.sierraclub.org/issues.htm] and at a page specifically devoted to Sears Island [http://maine.sierraclub.org/sears_island.htm], there’s every indication the chapter is still working toward this goal. Details of the “Preservation and Port” proposal are directly given, suggesting the club remains supportive of a plan that any port development must be restricted to the mainland at Mack Point while this rare and precious public island resource remains untouched. Details of no other plan are directly offered including the one actually scheduled to go to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee -- with the Sierra Club’s full blessing -- for what will be almost certain endorsement at the end of this month (by April 27). What the website conveniently neglects to mention is that the chapter abandoned the “Preservation and Port” proposal more than a year ago. The chapter is deliberately misrepresenting where it stands. In fact, last April, Saxe signed a “consensus agreement” [http://maine.sierraclub.org/Sears%20Island%20Draft%204-27-07%20meeting.doc] that (1) a container port is an “appropriate” use for the island and in order to aid and abet industry proponents the Maine Department of Transportation and the Baldacci administration are free to “market” such a needless and outrageous development on 341 acres of this 941-acre island, that (2) the club agrees it “would not object to or oppose fulfillment of a cargo/container port on Sears Island,” that (3) it will “publicly support this Consensus Agreement and…use [its] best faith efforts to persuade others to support it,” and that (4) in exchange for this terrible devil’s bargain, the remainder of the island not raped by a port will be classified as a “buffer easement” and filled with perhaps a couple of acres of buildings, an outdoor amphitheater and the inevitable parking lots and other utilities, to be devoted to a sort of educational theme park celebrating both the environment (what irony) and marine transportation. Go ahead and follow up these links, and weep. Or get in touch with any Maine Sierra Club member you know, share this material here and beg them to protest to the local and perhaps national chapters. It’s late but still not too late to get the chapter to rescind its support for this travesty and in doing so perhaps even sabotage it.

editec said...

Oh Peter, don't you yet understand?

"Preserving" now means making it part of the environmentalist mafia's domain.

They're getting paid off with half the island (which they're planning on turning into a educational site.. one with preciously little educational benefit for anyone) to allow the destruction of the other half as a port (or whatever machinations yet to be announced)

Empire building isn't just something greedy industrialists do, you know?

Either keep the island untouched (my first choice) or let's just throw in the towel and turn it into a casino or for-profit prison.

At least with a casino or prison, some locals might be able to make a living off the island's over utilized corpse.

And BTW, when does anyone pay the long suffering people of Searsport for that bridge we've built and been paying for all these years?

I didn't see anything mentioned about compensation for that hornswaggle, either.

Lord, please for the love of God, spare the earth from these accomodating environmentalists.

They're so busy trying to appear reasonable to their elite chums in private industry, that they're perfectly willing to give away the PEOPLE'S land... but just so long as they get their share of it, of course.

Never trust the liberal elite, Peter.

They suffer from all the inappropriate arrogance of the neo-cons, but then they expect you to think well of them after they screw you for your own good, too.

Welcome to the class wars, comrade.