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