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 coastwatch@gmail.com
Harlan McLaughlin, Fair Play for Sears Island. 207-548-9962

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