Dec 28, 2009

Sears Island - Sierra Club revisionists can't hide their guilt

It is astonishing to read in a recent article by the Portland Press Herald that that "the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club...has long opposed development on Sears Island".

Not so. The New England Chapter of the Sierra Club long opposed any development on Sears Island. It showed its mettle by suing -and winning-in state & federal courts in the 1980s and 90s.  The Maine Chapter, which split off from the New England Chapter in 2000 & is run by a tiny cabal of ultra-moderates, blithely reversed those decades of successful opposition. It has always supported MDOT's Sears Island dismemberment plan.

Maine Sierra Club's failure to protect this part of natural Maine has caused outraged citizens to take up the slack. Three lawsuits are contesting the MDOT's attempt at privatizing publicly-owned Sears Island. Sierra Maine's betrayal of the Club's hard-fought legal victories has given aid and comfort to the industrialists

Another error in the article: Ms. Becky Bartovics did NOT represent the Sierra Club's Maine chapter through the three years of the Sears Island Joint Use Committee. 

That post was held by Joan Saxe, who, as the meeting records show, sat passively by as the industrialists at the table took and took and took. Bartovics was not even a member of the Joint Use Committee. She was an 'alternate', representing the Penobscot Bay Alliance, and was not supposed to participate unless Saxe or another greenie quit the Joint Use Committee.

Eventually, Saxe's passivity at the Joint Use meetings led to her removal. Bartovics switched labels, abandoning her PBA for the Sierra Club moniker, and finished the job of privatizing Sears Island, hand in hand with Islesboro Island Trust's Steve Miller, whose crocodile tears can't quite drown out his role pushing dismemberment of Sears Island.

PPH should've look at the actual record and not relied on Miller and Bartovics's self-serving revisions of their role in putting New England's biggest unprotected wild island & its vital-to-Penobscot-Bay-groundfish nursery shoal at risk. 

Dec 25, 2009

Sears Island - MDOT's $100K search for containerport wannabes got zero responses

Looks like our lawsuits have been doing their work well: MDOT got No responses to its Sears Island RFEI (Request for Expression of Interest. This according to the following letter to the editor in the Free Press by Steve Miller: (links & map added for clarity)

"According to Maine Port Authority chief John Henshaw, MDOT "received no responses to our [Sears Island] RFEI by the November 25 deadline." The Request For Expression of Interest RFEI (34 page pdf ) was prepared for MDOT by California consultant Moffat and Nichol at a cost of $100,000.

Hired by MDOT in July, Henshaw said then that the response to the Moffat and Nichol RFEI "will help the state determine what kind of interest there is in developing a port on the island, as well as what the current needs of the marine transportation industry are, given the state of the economy. That will tell us what ultimately ought to be built there and when."

Given that there were absolutely no responses to the RFEI, it would appear that those who argue that Sears Island cannot economically support a container port are correct.

For example, Chop Hardenbergh, editor of Atlantic Northeast Rails and Ports, who spoke to the tugboat pilots organization in May of this year, said, "No new container terminal is needed in Searsport." He went on to say, "Studies claiming we need a new terminal in Searsport start with questionable assumptions, miss the boat on local need and port congestion elsewhere, over-estimate the value of rail capability, and anticipate a tsunami of traffic that is a mirage."

It is unclear what MDOT will do with the 350-acre portion of Sears Island set aside for possible port development now that it is known there is zero marine industry interest in building a container terminal on Sears Island."

Stephen Miller, Islesboro Islands Trust"


Dec 16, 2009

Maine Laws & Regs Affecting Wind Power Development in State’s Coastal Waters

Jeff Pidot, who recently retired from a career in the Maine Attorney General's Natural Resources Division  office - a career pretty much sans reproach -  wrote an advisory report back in August at the request of the Maine State  Planning Office.  It outlines ocean windfarm-related laws & regulations affecting Maine state waters. The  31 page report  is entitled "An Independent Study of Submerged Lands Leasing and Regulatory Issues Affecting Wind Power Development in Maine’s Coastal Waters" (pdf) Some excerpts and extracts:

""Significant development projects in Maine’s coastal waters require legally independent decisions by two   State agencies: a submerged lands lease issued by the Department of Conservation (Bureau of Parks and Lands); and regulatory permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection.

* Leasing decisions are made by the Bureau of Parks and Lands in the Department of Conservation
* Regulatory permitting is the primary responsibility of the Maine DEP 
* LURC and some coastal municipalities also have (lesser) roles

"Public Trust Doctrine. "In considering options for utilization of Maine’s coastal waters for wind power development, one must start with the important underlying principle that these lands and waters are held by the State, not as an absolute proprietor, but in a fiduciary capacity as trustee for the benefit of Maine people. "

"The public trust under which these lands are held imposes important restraints on their disposition to and use by private parties, and so must inform government decisions and processes in this regard."
"Although Maine law does not presently include wind power as one of the recognized public trust uses of the State’s coastal waters and submerged lands, as discussed below the Legislature may exercise its judgment to do so by making requisite findings of public needs and benefits of alternative energy production for which Maine’s coastal waters provide unique opportunities.

"Under appropriate legislative authorization, leases and other conveyances enabling wind power development should be based on adequate consideration of trust-related uses and values, mitigation of harms to those uses and values, appropriate restoration of the lands affected, and adequate compensation to the public for the use of its trust resources."

Read the  31 page report (pdf) for details

Dec 14, 2009

Oceans' warp uncovered - woof already known

The cross-oceanic striations - source of effectively limitless energy that our oceans' wildlife cavort about in.
These are the warp of  Aphrodite's Loom, with the greater currents (Gulf Stream, etc) being the woof.

 Who shall be the inventor whose gear can pull juice out of these 500 kilometer-long (crest to crest),  6 centimeter tall (trough to crest) ocean waves that crisscross the seven seas  in 150 kilometer wide bands stretching from the surface to the seafloor, traveling at a stately 1-1.5 centimeters per second?  That inventor will get his or her own Rushmore-like mountain by a thankful global community

What causes the striped flows? “They are a fascinating new aspect to the ocean’s circulation, but the jury is still out on the mechanisms leading to their formation,” says Geoff Vallis of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University." 

Look at the striation currents swirl endlessly around and around Antarctica: They're the jewel. There's Aphrodite's Spinning Wheel! 15,000 mile around.

Dec 9, 2009

Maine Legislature: 159 new bills for this winter session.

The Maine Legislature will hear 159 new bills in the session coming up this winter;  click here to read the titles and sponsors of 159  Legislative Requests (LRs) accepted by the Legislative Council.  (Note this is a 16 page pdf file)  These LRs will shortly turn into LDs. They will join these bills held over from the last legislative session (6pg pdf) Marine resources holdover bills include a scallop area management bill &competing proposals for saltwater recreational fishing registration vs. license

Below,  bills from the  list of 159 new bills that have environmental or conservation or sociological implications worth keeping watch on.

* Senator Mills LR: 2474 An Act To Require That Expedited Wind Energy Development Projects Provide a Tangible Benefit to Maine Ratepayers in the Form of Discounts to Future Electric Rates

* Representative Pingree: LR 2183 An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Noise Limitations on Wind Turbines; and LR: 2182 An Act To Clarify Maine's Phaseout of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

* Representative Flaherty: LR: 2339 An Act To Protect the Environment and Natural Resources of the State by Regulating the Discharge of Certain Substances into the Environment

* Senator Weston LR: 2204 An Act To Create the Lincolnville Sewer District

* Representative O'Brien LR: 2067  An Act To Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft or Air-carrier Equipment

* Representative Mazurek   LR: 2081  An Act To Allow Deer Hunting with Shotguns Only in Owls Head During Firearms Season

* Representative Cushing LR: 2286  An Act To Encourage Extended Stays in Maine Waters

* Representative Beaudette R: 2392 An Act To Clarify the Informed Growth Act

* Representative Piotti LR: 2300  An Act To Modify the Maine Tax Code To Support Renewable Energy

* Representative MacDonald LR: 2033 An Act To Stimulate the Maine Economy and Promote the Development of Maine's Priority Transportation Infrastructure Needs

* Senator Trahan  LR: 2208    An Act To Establish Emergency Zones

* Representative Schatz: LR: 2289 An Act To Ensure Humane Treatment for Special Management Prisoners

* Senator Damon  LR: 2364   An Act To Regulate the Use of Traffic Surveillance Cameras

Dec 7, 2009

Smelt, lobsters, seaweed, shrimp, clams on agenda DMR advisory mtg 12/16/09

Smelt, lobsters, seaweed,  shrimp and clams  are on the agenda for the DMR Advisory Council meeting, December 16, 2009 1:00 p.m. at the   Natural Resource Service Center in Hallowell. The public is welcome to attend. Directions here.
The following regulations will be voted upon :

Chapter 40 Smelt Regulations and Chapter 55 Gear Restrictions, sections 20, 60 and 97
(C. Enterline) (PDF format, 68KB, 8 pages)
Chapter 22 Retail Shellfish (New), & Chapter 9.01(D) Update (B. Chamberlain)
(PDF format, 45KB, 6 pages).
Chapter 105 Safety Regulations (C. Fetterman) (PDF format, 134KB, 12 pages)
Chapter 8.20(N) Landings Program, Harvester Reporting, Lobster Harvest (S. Cotnoir)
(PDF format, 11KB, 1 page)
Chapter 25.09 Procedure for Issuing Seed Lobster Permits, and Chapter 25.90(A)(2) & (D)(2) citation correction (D. Gilbert) (PDF format, 21KB, 3 pages)
Chapter 29 Seaweed and Chapter 8 Landings Program – amend for Seaweed Buyer’s surcharge rules (P. Thayer) (PDF format, 115KB, 11 pages)
Chapter 11.10(H)(1,2,8) Scallops - Technical corrections to closure line descriptions (Lt. Cornish)
(PDF format, 11KB, 1 page)
Chapter 1 Watercraft Excise Tax Decal (Col. Fessenden) (PDF format, 11KB, 1 page)
Chapter 45.05(1)(A)(2) Shrimp Season, 2009– 2010 (regular rulemaking) (L. Churchill)
(PDF format, 9KB, 1 page)

nyt photo

Nov 26, 2009

Sears Island: Army Corps rejects MaineDOT plan for Sears Island-based umbrella mitigation bank

"Army Corps of Engineers nixes Sears Island mitigation plan."  What a wonderful headline to read. "Nix" has such an air of determination to it. Walter Griffin of Bangor Daily News reports MDOT's discomfiture, and Islesboro Islands Land Trust's Steve Miller continuing affectations of surprise at MDOT's yearnings to dismember Sears Island.  With a few tweaks,  Miller judges the partition as "...not a bad concept" .

Walter Griffin summarizes:
"Under the proposal, the DOT wants to use the 601 acres it has placed in a conservation easement on Sears Island as a mitigation bank. The state contends that having a MUMBI designation on the island would allow it to use that acreage to offset any wetlands disturbed during DOT activities such as road or port construction."
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already on record as being opposed to the MUMBI proposal. The EPA determined in April that the plan failed to address aquatic resource restoration and would cause harm to the island's long-term ecological integrity.
"In the letter to Gates, the Army corps' regulatory division determined that the document lacked a statement detailing the "legal responsibility" for mitigation and "default and closure" provisions as required by law"......."if the corps approved the MUMBI, the DOT would have to obtain a federal permit each time it wanted to use the island site for mitigation."
"We have trouble with some of the details," [Islesboro Islands Land Trust's Steve] Miller said. "It's not a bad concept; however, we do have concerns. This focuses on preservation credits rather than the rehab or creation of wetlands."

Army Corps of Engineers nixes Sears Island mitigation plan.
By Walter Griffin, Bangor Daily News
Nov. 26--Searsport, Maine -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has rejected the state's draft application to create an umbrella mitigation bank on Sears Island.

The corps announced its decision in a letter to the Department of Transportation sent earlier this month. The agency determined that the application was incomplete and suggested the DOT revise its proposal to meet federal guidelines.

"It merely slows the process and nothing prohibits them [DOT] from submitting the application again," Army corps project manager Ruth Ladd said last week. "It doesn't kill it because there is always the option to resubmit the application."

The Maine Umbrella Mitigation Bank Instrument, or MUMBI, is the first of its kind to be proposed in New England. Mitigation banks have been established in other regions of the country for years, she said.
DOT spokesman Mark Latti said the agency submitted its draft proposal on Oct. 6 and received the rejection notice a month later. He said DOT planned to file a revised application shortly.

"We are reviewing the areas that are deemed incomplete and we will be resubmitting to the corps for their review within the next few weeks," Latti said Wednesday.

Under the proposal, the DOT wants to use the 601 acres it has placed in a conservation easement on Sears Island as a mitigation bank. The state contends that having a MUMBI designation on the island would allow it to use that acreage to offset any wetlands disturbed during DOT activities such as road or port construction. The wetland bank would cover the entire state. The state has retained another 330 acres on the island for a potential cargo port.

Authority to create a wetland mitigation bank comes through the federal Clean Water Act and is administered by the corps and the Environmental Protection Agency. The corps has established an interagency review team, or IRT, to screen the state's application.

"The corps had to look at it and share it with the IRT, and we determined there were a few things the needed to be addressed and we sent it back to them," Ladd said of the draft application.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already on record as being opposed to the MUMBI proposal. The EPA determined in April that the plan failed to address aquatic resource restoration and would cause harm to the island's long-term ecological integrity.

In the letter to Gates, the Army corps' regulatory division determined that the document lacked a statement detailing the "legal responsibility" for mitigation and "default and closure" provisions as required by law.

Stephen Miller of Islesboro Islands Trust expressed surprise last week that the state's application failed to meet the guidelines. Miller said that while he expected the DOT ultimately would succeed in gaining MUMBI approval, his group was concerned that the rules do not require the state to restore or enhance old wetlands that already have been disturbed.
"We have trouble with some of the details," Miller said. "It's not a bad concept; however, we do have concerns. This focuses on preservation credits rather than the rehab or creation of wetlands."

Ladd said that even if the corps approved the MUMBI, the DOT would have to obtain a federal permit each time it wanted to use the island site for mitigation.

"Just because there is a bank there's no guarantee they will be given a permit. The idea is to have mitigation that makes the most ecological sense," Ladd said earlier this year. "The umbrella sets up a framework for reporting and tracking. You can put a bunch of projects under an umbrella."

Nov 4, 2009

Sears Island estuary - a teeming autumn fish nursery

An environmental group with a special license from Maine's Department of Marine Resources has discovered a teeming autumn groundfish nursery in upper Penobscot Bay - directly in the path of a state proposal for a containerport and railyard.  Penobscot Bay's larval fish abundance  has been studied in spring and summer (13 pg pdf). On the other hand, fall and and winter abundances in the shallows of the bay are less studied. are less studied.

Rockland-based Penobscot Bay Watch says initial results from their November 1, 2009 survey reveal  juvenile cod, hake, perch, flounder, herring and many other fish, shrimp and crabs abound on Sears Island's shoals, often  in waters less than three feet deep. 
"We don't have final numbers on their abundance, but, extrapolating from the hundreds of fish captured in a single short pass of our beach seine, one could easily estimate more than a million young groundfish are on the 100 acre shoal, feasting on  great swarms of shrimp-like krill" said Ron Huber, executive director of the group. "This is apparently a quite critical habitat area for juvenile Penobscot Bay groundfish."

The nursery shallows adjoin long-disputed Sears Island, a 1,000 acre undeveloped island that shelters a large estuarine complex in the brackish headwaters of Penobscot Bay.  The island is surrounded by Stockton Harbor on its east side and Searsport Harbor on its western side. 

Debate over the island's future has split mainstream and grassroots environmentalists, with Sierra Club's Maine Chapter and Maine Coast Heritage Trust favoring the recent division of Sears Island into port zone and  privately managed conservation area, while fishery activists and  local citizens have filed lawsuits seeking to protect the fish nursery. 

Maine Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm is reviewing the cases, which ask him to overturn the state's decision earlier this year to grant the Maine Coast Heritage Trust a perpetual conservation easement on two thirds of the island. The plaintiffs contend that the easement is part of a quid pro quo designed to stimulate development of a port on the island's west side, with the "protected" east portion counted as compensatory mitigation "balancing" the dredging and filling of eelgrass beds and the island's forested wetlands that drain into them.  The moderate environmentalists have accepted the compromise, dropping their their decades of opposition to industrial development of the western part of Sears Island.

"If the state moves ahead and builds a containerport on this island, and dredges these shoals, the natural recovery of Penobscot Bay's groundfish will be jeopardized," Huber said.  We very much hope that Judge Hjelm agrees"

Penobscot Bay Watch - People who care about Maine's biggest bay

Nov 2, 2009

Island Institute: can't have it both ways.

An opinion piece in the latest edition of  the Island Institute's Working Waterfront tabloid  laments the high real estate prices on Maine's islands, prices which render housing  there unattainable for the average Mainer. This is in large part due to, the writer observes, the fact that  "Maine's islands are part of a global real estate market."

One part of that real estate market is, of course, the Island Institute itself, whose newspaper last time I looked was top heavy with adverts for high-priced island Mcmansions, and for the various contractors ready to build more of them.  The Institute does some very fine things, but theeir promoting high priced island real estate is not one of them.

Oct 29, 2009

ME Coastal Waters Conference - audios of speakers and audience

Maine Coastal Waters Conference October 28, 2009. Audio mp3s.  See state website of the conference. The event had 10 sessions 
Paul Anderson, Maine SeaGrant Welcoming remarks
George Lapointe Introductions by Maine Marine Resources Commissioner
Angus King: "Ocean related energy"  BDN on King's speech
Dr Susanne Moser, UC Santa Cruz: "Let's talk Climate: Communication for Effective Community Engagement 

Workshop 4 Community Participation in Management & Conservation of Coastal Ecosystems
Heather Leslie, Brown University . On framing your message, locally, nationally 
Paul Dest, Damariscotta River Association Engaging the community with preserving coastal resources
John Sowles, ex-DMR Ecology Director Local ecosystem based resource management in Taunton Bay
Workshop audience Q&A 32 min.

Workshop VII Tools for dealing with natural resources & human uses at the community-level
Chris Feurt, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve "Collaborative Learning for Communities"
Beth Bisson, Maine SeaGrant "Seascapes"
Shey Conover, Island Institute "Using Community GIS"
Jennifer Atkinson, Quebeb/Labrador Foundation "Muscongus Bay Community Atlas"
Question and Answer Period

Oct 28, 2009

Angus King calls for energy isolationism at Maine Coastal Waters Conference

Wednesday's Maine Coastal Waters Conference, in a high end conference hall that squats atop what  once was the Ducktrap Deeryard, was cool.

Audio mp3s of speakers at  event Click Here

Keynote speaker didn't make it: Monica Medina, Sr Advisor to NOAA's Administrator, was taken ill yesterday. But folks said good things about her.

This gave the next speaker, ex-Governor Angus King, plenty of time to dole out his usual heaping serving of what one can only call  energy isolationism.  Non-Maine-originated energy is consumed instate to the tune of 2.5 billion dollars per year. "And we get nothing in return!" King declared, as if the use by Mainers of all that energy for  heat, transportation, light, computing, health services, entertainments etc,  is somehow "nothing".  King compared Canada to Malaysia,  drawing similarities between the pipeline importing  natural gas  to the US from Canada  and  the pipeline supplying about 40% of  the island of Singapore's freshwater  from its mainland neighbor.  Lacking lakes or rivers, Singapore is setting  up desalinization and more rain catchments and water recycling  plants to supply itself with its own water;  King seems to think  Mainers should view Canadians as seeking to control our energy; we must patriotically cover our state's lands and waters with windfarms to protect ourselves from the Menace from the North.

King finally ran out of gas, and University of California scientist Susanne Moser followed.  Her topic: how to communicate climate change to the masses. Her suggestion - sort your audience and tailor your comments thusly: are your listeners: Alarmed/Concerned/Cautious/Disengaged/Doubtful or Dismissive of Global Climate Change? Figure it out, then speak using their belief system, their values.  

For a national campaign, Dr Moser said,  what must be communicated is: Urgency, Empowerment, Unity,Visibility, Results, Practicality, and the existence of Supportive and Enabling Policies.  

One of the challenges facing the campaigner is that fact that, even if  the world's humans  stopped all burning of coal and petrol tomorrow, there would be NO NOTICEABLE DROP IN THE ATMOSPHERE'S CO2  LEVELS  FOR ABOUT ONE THOUSAND YEARS.

Hard to do the "urgency thing" armed with that statistic!

 Sick of energy peddlers and doomsaying, I sought refuge in the Marshall Point Room, where a  talk was held on "Community participation in in the management and conservation of coastal ecosystems". 

Here former DMR ecology director John Sowles, Paul Dest, director of Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Mark DesMeules of the Damariscotta Watershed Association. This was more my style/

"I don't like the words "Marine Protected Area" Sowles said.  But he has taken part in "bay management" of  Maine's Taunton Bay, a small bay a wee bit downeast of Mount Desert Island,

Paul Dest - a happy man - as anyone who runs an estuarine research reserve must be - explained the town by town negotiations under the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea program that has protected much land in the surprisingly unspoiled six town watershed of Maine's southern border area, from Mt A to the Gulf of Maine. It is not easy to get town governments to commit time and energy to areas beyond their municipal limits, Dest said, yet this is absolutely necessary if one is to have watershed level management. The burden is on the activist, not the towns, to carry this out.

More later.  Nice chow & good coffee at the event. 100s of anthropocentrists.

Oct 27, 2009

Penobscot Bay shallow waters protection plan to kick off at Maine Coastal Waters Conference on Wednesday

Group to kick off Penobscot Bay protection plan at 2nd annual  Maine Coastal Waters Conference at  the Conference Center atop Ducktrap Mountain in Northport.

In addition to renewable energy and climate change's impacts to the Gulf of Maine conference attendees willl consider  Community participation in the management and conservation of coastal ecosystems .

An example of such community action began with last week's  granting by Maine Department of Marine Resources of a special license to Ron Huber, executive director of  Penobscot Bay Watch.  The  license allows group's members to use a 60 foot long small mesh beach seine net to catch and release nearshore juvenile cod and and other small fishes once a month at three locations along the shore of West Penobscot Bay: Stockton Harbor, Searsport Harbor and Rockland Harbor.

Captured fish and invertebrates will be photographed and  their size and color itemized, before they are released alive back into their homes.

"Sampling Maine's nearshore coastal waters for the presence or absence of our native fishes and crustaceans is vital to understanding the ecological health of the most vulnerable part of Penobscot Bay's  ecosystem, its nearshore waters" Huber said.  "We can't know where to go, unless we know where we are." 

"This shallow zone from low tide to 6 feet deep is  an ecological front line. It is where polluted runoff and shoreland development can have their most harmful effect."  Huber said.  "It is extremely important for a fishery recovery of Penobscot Bay that these shallow aters are watched over very closely. Penobscot Bay Watch aims to do just that."

Huber said that people interested in helping with the survey  to contact his group at 691-7485 or by email at  "It's strenuous but  a lot of fun," he said. describing pulling in the seine as "like playing Tug of War with Neptune."   Further information is available at the Penobscot Bay Watch website

Penobscot Bay Watch: People who care about Penobscot Bay

Oct 20, 2009

Waiting for Big Blue/Green & Red, White& Blue to get GOM HAPC happening

On the coast of Maine.  We wait for Big BlueGreen to lift its sluggish head from the climate change trough it is feeding at. It is time to stand at the shore of the sea, midwifing what to developers & polluters may seem a monster, but to the rest of us, a blessing,

Time to get organized, NOAA is implementing new federal marine fish habitat rules over the entire coastal shallows (low tide to 30 feet deep) (see map of Vinalhaven & North Haven) of the entire New England coast: Narragansett Bay of Connecticut/Rhode Island up to Passmaquoddy Bay at the Maine/New Brunswick border, on behalf of and to the betterment of inshore atlantic cod schools that should be thronging those shores, common as mackerel.

And will again, perhaps, if their old home is freed from pollution, dredging, filling and the rest of the insults we humans dole out so blithely to Neptune's wild Atlantis holdikngs. Read summary of federal inshore cod plan, with maps (3pg pdf)

Oct 14, 2009

Here comes that Sears Island umbrella again!

The word on the bay is that MDOT has just shipped out to the federal agencies the state's new umbrella mitigation plan for MDOT. The previous one offering 2/3 of dismembered Sears Island as the first "deposit" in its mitigation bank, was sent packing some months ago.  What must MDOT Commissioner Cole be thinking this time? What has he come up with?

It better be something new. For according to one federal agency staffer, "so far, there has been good overall agreement between the Corps, EPA, NOAA, and [US Fish and Wildlife Service]  that little or no credit should be given for direct wetland impacts in exchange for the preservation of 600 acres of Sears Island. "

In response, Senator Dennis Damon and his Transportation Committee members are hopping mad. They are discovering that they may well have been suckered by Governor B and the ecoyuppies. If they thought that giving  the Land Trusters 601 acres of Sears Island was going to allow logging clearing blasting, paving and dredging within the 340 acre industrial zone, then they were mistaken. Sorry. Nope. Not in the eyes of God or the Army Corps of Engineers.

The fedsters did allow that  "indirect impacts (fragmentation, non-point source runoff) from MEDOT projects would make sense for credit."  But not compensating for the Godzilla footprint a containerport like this would have on Sears Island.

Oct 10, 2009

Sears Island & the Vision of 2006: how the mighty have fallen!

At the July 12 2006 meeting of the Sears Island Planning Initiative Steering Committee,  "visions" of the future of Sears Island were expressed, from full island protection to construction of a variety of industrial port types.  The Maine Dept of Conservation has kept a 42 page compendium of these land use visions as a pdf file on the state website. Below are excerpts from a few of the many, just to show  the remarkable change of heart of some people and organizations, and the stick-to-it-iveness of others.  Click here for the Department of Conservation's pdf file of visions.

A joint Letter by Scott Dickerson of MCHT, Jim Freeman of Maine Earth First!, Steve Miller of Islesboro Islands Trust, Becky Bartovics of Penobscot Bay Alliance,  Sierra Club's Joan Saxe and others: "Our vision is founded on these two core recommendations: that the entirety of Sears Island be permanently committed to conservation, outdoor recreation, and environmental education; and  that Mack Point, as one of the three ports of Maine, be fully utilized, enhanced, and expanded."

How easily and how thoroughly these core recommendations went by the wayside!  Only months after their utterance, the above signatories were jointly signing another document - this time  calling for division of Sears Island!

 A few others...
Anne Crimaudo :“My concern is the preservation of critical habitat and the impact on the ecosystem that  any type of development would have. 168 species of birds, 28 mammals and 9 amphibian and reptile species have had documented sightings on the island.  The island is an incubator of many life forms and is an important nursery habitat for marine species in Penobscot Bay.”

John Wardwell, Lane Construction. We have in Maine several gravel pits and quarries that are accessible to rail lines and others in close proximity which would allow trucking to the facility.
Given that the island has plenty of land available next to the berth to stockpile andhandle bulk materials which could be backhauled on the same vessels would help lower the freight rates and make sure more competitive and substantially help the economy and provide jobs in the State of Maine.”

John Melrose: "Of the very few miles set aside for marine cargo handling, Searsport is distinct due to the extent of shoreline controlled by marine transportation interests. We believe the compromise struck over 25 years ago must be honored; the merits of the compromise are even stronger today and diminishing the shoreline available to the Port of Searsport broadly undermines a most significant component of our State’s maritime heritage and future."

Who knowns what 2010 will bring?

Oct 4, 2009

FOPSI /PBW meeting participants agree: ultimate goal is one Sears Island, undivided.

Friends of Sears Island  met October 4 2009 at the Yardarm Motel in Searsport. The group was formed in 2004 but incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non profit only last year.  Its mission is ostensibly to steward only the 601 acres of the island under conservation easement, and ignore the other third of the island which is in peril of port speculation.

Special Guests Ron Huber of Penobscot Bay Watch and Harlan McLaughlin of  Fair Play for Sears Island examined how deeply the group is attached to the 601 acres-only stewardship limit, by urging a larger approach to protecting the full island. They found little if any resistance to the notion, but FOSI is presently focusing on the introductory baby steps as a newish organization with little if any budget.


* Sears Island advisory group described (run by MDOT)

MDOT  David Cole, Duane Scott and Deane Vandusen 
MDEP Andrew Fisk
MCHT Doug McMullen and Ciona Albrecht
CMLT Scott Dickerson 
Searsport Bob Ramsdell repping

Comments noted this was very top heavy with govt types, and likely to be not very useful for conservation purposes.

* FOSI Next Steps.   Build a kiosk/information signboard at the entry way with a map & other info.
  Seek grants.

* FOSI Grant Proposals
The group has grant proposals out to Maine Dept of Conservation, for  $8-10K for an  Ecological Survey  and a lesser amount for trail maintenance from the Conservation Corps(?)
* Trails Expansion Much discussion fo grooming the trails and getting permission to open up new ones.  Difficult to have an island  perimeter trail  because the wetlands that top the bluff along west side of the island would need major boardwalks to do it without stopping up the wetlands flow of nutrients onto the beach and bay.  The island's western beaches are fully submerged at high tide.   

* Promotional events: kayak races, swim round the island races, Strongly urge group to specifically do around-island events so not pigeonholed to the 601 acres only but identifies with protecting entire island.

* On skiing Noted that state requires crosscountry ski trails to be quite wide - more than the Sears Island path people want to go.

* Aquaculture proposal Billy Vaughan the Massachusetts based would-be oyster aquaculturist has not applied for a lease next to the Sears Island causeway, Nor has he followed up on his offer to be part of the shellfish committee either.

* Refuge HQ proposal USFWS selected Rockland over Searsport but their negative depction of the Searsport site may inhibit other potential scientific tenants of the island.

* Eco-World?: No educational center proposal has surfaced from MCHT or anyone else, yet

* Mack Point - FOSI hopes to still promo Mack Point over Sears island. Islesboro Islands Land Trust, FOSI  and Sierra club feebly  protested MDOT's consultant's determinatin tht mack Point isn't suitable Suggestion that Offshore wind energy task force interested in bilding a port at Sears Island to offload windmill parts.

* Jimmy Freeman is off the FOSI bus. His presidency of that outfit was bringing unwanted "fire" down on the FOSIs. They appreciated the stairway, though, and were quite put out by the mocking poster someone had emplaced nearby. But, Jimmy brought the fire down upon himself by tattletailing of Sears Island defenders plans to the authorities,  by his suppression of port opponents in Maine's green communities, and by his threats on behalf of the governor's plans. He has forever cast his true allegiance in doubt among environmentalists (beyond the Freemanistas who do his bidding irregardless of his behavior.)

* Ecological survey Suggested the value of expanding survey to include the beaches, intertidal areas  and shoal waters all the way around the island. 

* Beach seine surveys to be done around island by Penobscot Bay Watch using university seine.- Could FOSI take part?  Yes.  It was observed that shortnose sturgeon were unexpectedly detected by use of nets in waters north of Bucksport

* Other data sources. Poorly researched upper bay because of the politics of pollution and Sears Island.  Check with universities and suggest research plans for university professors to take to their students looking for things to do their theses or doctorates on.  Unity College did some research on Sears Island beach recently.

* Get schools involved.

Nice meeting. Harlan and Huber left satisfied that  they'd give the FOSIs some ideas to exploit.

Oct 2, 2009

Maine offshore wind farms to be R&D only - State

On September 29th, the Maine Geological Survey and Maine Coastal Program hosted a public info meeting at the Samoset on the state plan to establish sites in Maine state waters for research on offshore deepwater windfarming. Media coverage  Here and Here  Listen below  to a  presentation by State Geologist Bob Marvinney describing the proposed windfarm areas off our coast, and to the lively question and answer period that followed. The state also issued maps marked off in 1 mile squares showing proposed windfarm areas offshore, and now asks the public for info on these locations.

Introduction by Paul Anderson, Maine SeaGrant (6.5 min)
Presentation by Bob Marvinney, Maine Geological Survey (32 min)
Questions and Answers I Bob West, Rockport; Sid Quarrier, Appleton; (9min)
Q&As 2 Ron Huber (9min)
Q&As 3 Dana Hutchins
Q&As 4 Richard Warner, St George; a person from Edgecomb, (13 min)
Q&As 5 Becky Bartovics (8 min)
Q&As 6. Liz Dickerson (8min)
Q&As 7. Richard Podolski; Ken Shule.(5.5min)
Q&As 8 Metinic Lobsterman (12 min)
Q&As 9 Jim Hayes, Rockport (6.5min)
Q&As 10 Ragged Island lobsterman (5min)
Q&As 11 Diane Rector, Liberty (6.5min)
Q&As 12 Jim Wadsworth, Warren. (5min)
Q&A 13 Metinic lobsterman Post 2 (15 min)
Q&A 14 Diane Rector(2) to Meeting End (9.5min)

Sep 26, 2009

Samoset hosts Offshore Wind pub info mtg September 29th 6:30-9pm

On Tuesday September 29th, the Samoset Resort in Rockport will host a public information meeting held by the Maine Department of Conservation and the Maine State Planning Office on proposals for demonstration sites off maine for offshore windfarming.  The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., and lasts until 9 p.m.

 Whether you are interested in a new clean industry and or about the reduced air and water pollution by switching to wind and solar, or  concerned about the impacts of wind turbines onfishing, lobsters, birds and other marine life in Maine coastal waters (or both), this is for you.

This will be the final of five public information meetings scheduled this month.

Background. Legislation passed this year mandates that the Department of Conservation and the State Planning Office work together to identify between one and five demonstration sites in Maine's coastal water to test the components necessary to develop offshore wind power, including floating platforms, anchoring systems, and new lightweight blade composites.   State agencies are required to identify the sites by the middle of December.

According to state officials, the purpose of the public meeting is to gather information, such as fishing and recreational uses, as well as natural resource constraints, so that exact designation of the sites is done as collaboratively as possible. More information available here and  here and here and here

Sep 18, 2009

MDOT- Sears Island container port would NOT reduce state's truck traffic.

At a recent public forum about Sears Island, MaineDOT Commissioner David Cole let out a big secret as he laid out his agency's vision of a Sears Island port.  It would not be an ordinary container port, he said,

It would be a "Trans-shipment container port."

"The paradigm has significantly shifted" Cole declared, describing the plan for Sears Island to be  

"a  trans-shipment containerport connecting Maine to Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. is now part of the environmental solution"   He envisioned "...stacked containers moving by rail  from ships docking at Sears Island directly to depots in the midwestern US  by way of Montreal."

"The reality is" Cole piously said  "a third of our carbon footprint comes from the transportation sector. If we're going to be serious at reducing it, you've got to work at finding more economical and environmentally friendly and energy efficient  ways of  moving goods.  Shipping by sea and by rail -it would be a railport  -comes to the port of Searsport as the most environmentally friendly way of moving goods."

 Part of the environmental solution, eh? Most environmentally friendly, huh?  Certainly that would be true if the port and rail system Cole dreams about  would replace the trucks that fill our roads and highways, ceaselessly delivering to wholesale and retail outlets the goods we use in out daily lives.

But it won't! The Baldacci Admin dream is a "trans-shipment container railport" remember?   Sears Island will just be a sort of global trade portal zone. One where containers from overseas are transferred to railcars for shipment nonstop to commercial centers in the Midwestern US. Not a single container will stay in Maine.

Meanwhile the highways will still be jammed with trucks, trucks,  trucks...

Sep 16, 2009

Media: Sears Island takes center stage, at Alamo

Not bad!  though I wish she'd mentioned my main point when she wrote: "it might impact Penobscot Bay." to summarize my depiction of the awesome marine fertility of the island's shoals area and how it is being needlessly threatened for a port for which, Commissioner Cole in so many words admitted, there is no need, only an opportunity.  But I think  that opportunity would be on the backs of nature and the nature based economies of Penobscot Bay. - RH


Capital Weekly. Augusta Maine

Sears Island takes center stage, at Alamo
By Tanya Mitchell   (Mitchell attended the S914/09 event)

Sep 16, 2009
Bucksport — What better place to hold a forum about the future of an island that has been at the heart of decades-long arguments about how best to use it?

Than at The Alamo.

Voices on various sides of the Sears Island debate were broadcast live over WERU FM airwaves Sept. 14 throughout the two-hour forum.

While the discussion initially attracted a light crowd — with about a third of the theater seats occupied at the start — the audience steadily grew as the show progressed.

The forum was billed as a discussion about the future of the island, which is divided into two portions through a joint-use plan and conservation easement signed last spring by Gov. John E. Baldacci.

About 601 acres of the 941-acre island is preserved in perpetuity by way of a conservation easement held and managed through Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

The joint-use plan also allows for the remaining 340 acres to be set aside for potential development of a container port.

Throughout the joint-use planning process, which spanned about five years, those seeking to keep the entire island in its natural state have been at odds with those who support port development on the island.

The division between the two sides was apparent Monday night as panelists discussed — and in some cases, defended — their positions.

Panelists were Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Hancock, Fair Play for Sears Island member Peter Taber of Searsport, former Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee member Jimmy Freeman of Verona Island, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Cole and Ron Huber, executive director of Penobscot Bay Watch.

WERU volunteer Gray Parrot moderated.

Damon, who chairs the Legislature's Transportation and Marine Resources Committees, questioned Taber about his characterization of the planning process.

During Taber's opening statements, he referred to a series of public meetings held prior to the formation of the JUPC, when the public largely supported keeping the island undeveloped.

Taber described the process as dishonest, and called out the Maine Sierra Club for changing its position on keeping the island development-free in exchange for a planned education center that he called "eco-world."

Damon called Taber's statements as inflammatory rhetoric, and questioned why Taber chose to see things as he does, even with the potential for conservation and recreational opportunities on the majority of the island.

Taber said Damon need look no further than the planning process, which he said was conceived because MDOT "had bungled this sort of thing in the past."

Taber recalled when the planning process, under the Sears Island Planning Initiative Steering Committee, established so-called affinity groups where those on differing sides could draft visions for the future of the island.

"Those groups were quickly distilled into those who wanted a port and those who agreed that a port might be OK," he said.

Taber, a former newspaper reporter for the now-defunct Waldo Independent, said the process was aimed at keeping the public out. He said he crashed secret meetings at Department of Conservation headquarters that involved the affinity groups, but no one who opposed development on the island was there.

"That's what I mean by dishonesty," Taber said.

Freeman, who like Huber, was instrumental in fighting the development of a cargo port on the island in the 1990s, questioned why Huber did not get involved in the planning process from the beginning.

Huber had bemoaned that the process included potential risks that development might pose to wetlands and other parts of the on-island ecosystem, but not how it might impact Penobscot Bay.

"You had every opportunity to be a part of this process right from the beginning... But you chose to kind of snipe at all the players," said Freeman. "Why did you choose that path instead of just getting involved?"

Huber referred to the fight over the island 15 years before, when Freeman worked with Earth First and "sent Angus King into a tizzy" with his skill as an activist and organizer.

Then he recalled the fight in 2003 and 2004 to keep a liquefied natural gas terminal from being constructed at Sears Island. After a vote from Searsport townspeople indicated they did not support such a development, the governor agreed to back off from those plans.

"When this came up, we thought we didn't have to worry," said Huber, noting Freeman and the Sierra Club were considered part of the resistance. "...Then, it was almost like the Stockholm Syndrome took place."

Huber said after he and other environmentalists trusted the process was in good hands, those in the public with views opposing island development were ignored at subsequent planning meetings.

Huber referred to three lawsuits against the state currently pending in Maine Superior Court that seek to revoke the joint-use plan, in which he is one of three plaintiffs.

Cole, who stated that transportation needs are shifting from trucking to shipping and rail use due to the need for more environmentally friendly options, questioned Taber about his perceptions on how the public feels.

"I don't hear from a lot of other people except for you and your group," said Cole. "... Could you at least conceive the possibility that you might be out of touch?"

Taber said Cole had done "a masterful job at public relations and manipulating the process from the beginning," in that people who turned out to fight for a natural island were excluded from the process.

Taber said they eventually got discouraged and gave up participating.

Taber took issue with the use of the term "compromise" when referring to the consensus agreement and joint-use plan. "You don't compromise with virginity," said Taber. "... I think you may be out of touch."

The audience turned up the heat, particularly on state officials, when it came time to take questions from the steadily growing crowd.

One woman asked Cole if a study was ever conducted that demonstrated a need for a port at the island.

Cole referred to a report completed in early 2008 by The Cornell Group out of Virginia, which indicated there was a market for such a development. He also addressed a question regarding the state's use of $100,000 to pay a consulting firm to market the island to potential port developers.

"We are aggressively marketing Sears Island to see if there is the demand that the Cornell Group said was out there," said Cole.

Cole said that should a port plan become reality, it would be through a public-private partnership, where the developer would be on the hook for design and construction costs.

Others asked what they could do to protest port development on the island.

Cole said if a port is proposed — and he stressed there are currently no plans on the table for Sears Island — it would likely go through a permitting process through the Army Corps of Engineers. That process includes a public comment period.

Jody Spear of Harborside, a neighborhood of Brooksville, criticized the state for its proposal to create a Federal Wetlands Mitigation Bank, where the 601 acres of conserved land at Sears Island would be used as the first deposit.

According to ACE, such land banks are used in other parts of the country if there is potential for wetlands damage during a project. There are several types of "credits" that a developer can withdraw from a mitigation bank to replace the "debits" that occur during construction.

Spear said she saw this as another way the state attempts to circumvent state and federal environmental regulations in the interest of getting a port on the island.

Spear pressed Damon on why hearings have not been held through the Marine Resources Committee regarding potential impacts on the marine habitat should a port come to fruition.

"Perhaps we should have some input on this," said Damon. "... We haven't done that because we're not to a point that we have any type of plan."

Harlan McLaughlin of Searsport and Fair Play for Sears Island revisited the use of the term "compromise" for his question.

"What did you give up?" McLaughlin asked the entire panel.

Damon, who noted the island was purchased by the state for transportation purposes, stated the 601 acres of conserved land constituted a compromise.

Cole agreed.

Taber said the state didn't give up as much as Damon and Cole thought, in that the 601 acres are referred to as "the buffer easement" throughout the conservation easement that is aimed at protecting the space.

"It's a buffer for a port," he said. "... It's a lousy compromise."

Freeman said he gave a little when he allowed for the possibility that a container port might be built on the island down the road, if a build-out at Mack Point is not feasible.

"My compromise was not joining this process from the beginning," said Huber. "Otherwise, I can't compromise anything."

"We compromised on a totally wild island, that's what we gave up," said McLaughlin. 

Sep 15, 2009

Sears Island at the Alamo! Pt 1 & 2

T'was a fine time at the Alamo Theater in Bucksport last night. The Great Game playing out once more.
Both hours roared by; I couldn't believe it when it was noted but a few minutes remained...See photos here.

Here  are my recollections of the first hour: The entryway, where Sally Jones displayed used cores of  rhyolite, which a first nations-er  discarded on the island sometime during the last fifty centuries of the managing of Sears island 's natural resources by the Wabanaki and the red paint Maritime Archaic peoples. She issued Won't clam up! pins and en-coffined mourning-the-island visors to those entering the theater. And held forth to Tanya Mitchell,  reporter from the Belfast newspaper.

Then off  to the cavernous interior, where, on the long table on the raised stage where the five forumistas would sit sat,  two water cups (speaking is thirsty work!) flanked each talker's table microphone.

A biot of sound checkery, and an introduction by Amy Brown. Then an explanation of the forum's process byWERU moderator Gray Parrot: Five minutes for each panelist to lay out their main points, then one question of another panelist by each panelist, then a question by the moderator for all the panelists to answer, then questions from the audience until the end.

Damon started off. He acknowledged multiple valid sides to the controversy, admitted that initially he and his committee had voted unanimously to condition the granting of the easement to a port wannabe  first acquiring port permits. Baldacci convinced him to redo the vote, getting around Public Law 277  by having the Transportation Committee merely assent to a gubernatorial executive order accepting the conservation easement, and not assenting directly  to MDOT's split the island plan; [ Aside: this bit of legerdemain, by the way,angered some of the veteran committee members who were being asked to now vote  unanimously AGAINST what they'd just voted  unanimously FOR, amid heartily confused new legislators in the Transportation committee who complained they were being forced to vote in a rush, on the day this Sears Island thing  landed in their laps, without rknowing hardly any details - and all because Damon had scheduled a bus trip to a fish hatchery for that afternoon!  On little fish, this island's fate keeps pivoting.

In any case, Senator Damon said, the division of Sears Island for port and protected areas was the right thing.

Peter Taber was next He noted his 18 years of journalism in  Waldo County; and his close following of,  and reportage on, Sears Island development schemes by governor's Mckernan, King and Baldacci in his first term.  He detailed at length the overall dishonesty and rigging of the process by each succeeding chief executive's government , the legislature and us congress, industry and NGO's alike.

Jim Freeman followed. He noted his 25 years in Maine, his 15 years of activism around defense of Sears island. He agreed Sears Island was "an incredible place", extolled its fish nursery, noted he'd been involved in protecting ii in the 90's and early '00's, but , fearing the state might sell the island to condominium development, decided that saving part of it by the state giving  MCHT a conservation easement over the east side was better than nothing. And besides there might never be a port on the other side since Mack Point across the bay isn't filled to capacity. Thus he joined the MDOT's Sears Island  Joint Use Planning Committee and went with their flow.

David Cole of Maine DOT described the state's plan for a "trans-shipment" container port, one that could send double stacked containers by rail  from ships docking at Sears Island to depots in the midwestern US  by way of Montreal.  Rail is the "most environmentally friendly"  of all transportation modes anyway, he noted. One-third the carbon footprint.

I was next. I noted that  a "trans-shipment container port" meant that it would not carry Maine-bound goods; those would all continue to come into and around the state by truck or other ports. The transhipment rail line would take  the containers  form the ship and directly through and out of Maine unopened. I also noted that a containerport  is a heavy air polluter: the ships, trains, trucks and cranes all running their petrol-burning engines at once all the time. The upper bay would become an asthma cluster zone in epidemiological studies.  I noted that the island was set up at the interface between river and bay and its location was perfect for growing baby groundfish and other fishes (although the illegally created causeway's lack of culverts has diminished that function and must be pierced).

Then came questions from panelist to panelist:
Damon asked Peter why he was accusative, "inflammatory". Why do you choose to discredit?   Peter replied with a detailed description of the perfidy perpetuated by Cole's agency and by Sierra Club, from SIPI's beginnings to the present. Damon said that the sell-out NGOs reserve the ability to question why 2/3 of the island was conserved.He's not convinced they are all on board. (Cole looked right uncomfortable hearing this this, as he did when Freeman next to him announced his lukewarm support of a port on the island.

Peter asked Damon to explain why he had earlier said that he was not sure of the sincerity of the people that signed onto the agreement; did he still feel that way.

Jim Freeman noted that he and I had worked together for years on  Sears Island. Why, he asked, was I (RH)  "on the outside"  casting  "wild allegations", and not on the inside being a part of JUPC?   I replied that at the startup of the JUPC process I was busy suing Dragon Cement in Thomaston to make them cap their dusty CKD mound; when I saw the Sierra Club and Earth First!er Jim Freeman were on the Sears Island  Joint Use Committee, I thought  the island was safe - these people have never compromised when it came to protecting the entire island from development.

What a shoc, I said,  to find out it wasn't so!  Freeman and Sierra Club had consensed with MDOT against piercing the causeway! Had agreed a port was an "appropriate use" of western Sears Island agreed to triple the amount of acreage given up to industrial development.   And how sad that Mr Freeman  and the Sierra Club would not respond to the public whose interests they were supposedly representing, would not meet with them, would only assure them that everything was fine.

Coleasked his question next.  He claimed overwhelming support for island splitting plan by mainstream enviro groups, by the community of Searsport, by the legislature, by Downeast Magazine, etc, then asked Peter if he would concede that he was maybe "a little out of touch"?

Peter conceded no such thing! and pointed out how the state's process had been manipulated.  How assent for the port plan was either manufactured by MDOT's facilitator eliminating island protectors from the SIPI, or by  officials representing the town of Searsport claiming town support without polling its citizens, by Sierra club, the new version,  likewise not consulting its members before a few leaders gave support ot island splitting. By Senator Damon rushing the governor's/MDOT's plan throughout a bewildered Transportation Committee while keeping it entirely out of the Marine Resources Committee. No real support. Only the appearance of it.

I asked Commissioner Cole why Maine DOT was not going by the requirements of the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act (after first describing it and its relevance to the Sears Island planning process) Cole replied that since the matter was under litigation ( by me and two other Mainers) he was not going to answer!  But, he continued, "We don't even have a development yet, let alone a design, let alone a permitting process.  I can assure you that when a port is considered, if and when, that there be extensive public process. All applicable federal and state rules and laws  will be followed." (quote from recording).

End of Part One of my recollections of the meeting. Recordings of the speakers,and the rest of the two hour forum coming up soon. Somewhere in there Cole agrees to hold a hearing in  the marineresrouces committee about Sears Island.

Sears Island Forum yields promise by Senator Damon to convene hearing on fishery impacts,

Bucksport.  At a forum last night  on the future of Sears Island, Senator Dennis Damon (D-Trenton) co-chair of the Maine Legislature's Marine Resources Committee, said if plans for a container port  advance, he will order a hearing on the fish habitat surrounding the upper Penobscot Bay island..

His announcement came after a succession of opponents of a proposed container port plan for the Sears Island near the mouth of Penobscot River  criticised MaineDOT and the Legislature for ignoring the threat a port on the island would pose to the  well-documented groundfish nursery shoals edging the island's west side. The so called Wasumkeag Shoal is brackish and rich with eelgrass and  supplies young cod pollock, haddock and other fish to the greater bay. The shoal would have to be partly dredged away to make room for an industrial port. The need to protect that marine habitat stymied efforts by former Governor Angus King to build a port there.

"Its about time," said Ron Huber of Penobscot Bay Watch, a panelist at the forum, who spoke in defense of the fish nursery at the forum. "Killing off the habitat necessary for baby cod to survive in Penobscot Bay would hold back inshore groundfish recovery for decades. You don't attack the bay's maternity ward"

Damon said that he will convene the hearing  when and if a port plan for Sears Island is applied for. But Huber and other critics of thesears Island port&park plan warned that by waiting until then, would be too late to have an impact on the application process. They urged him to hold a hearing on the role of upper Penobscot Bay's habitat in producing  inshore groundfish as soon as possible, and create protections for it.


Sep 13, 2009

Sears Island: what NMFS said in 1995

From National Marine Fisheries Service "Habitat Happenings" December 1995

Port Facility a Serious Threat to Habitat:
NMFS Recommends Alternative Location
NMFS' Northeast Region reviewed the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a proposal by tjhe Maine Department of Transportation to construct a new 95 acre port facility on Sears Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The project would result in substantial adverse effects to eelgrass beds, tidal flats, shellfish habitat, and freshwater wetlands and wildlife habitat on Maine's largest undeveloped island. Over 200 people attended the recent public hearing for the project, which included about 130 speakers and lasted more than nine hours.

The deputy regional director read a prepared statement at the hearing, saying the Sears Island proposal "would be one of the most damaging coastal development projects to occur in New England since modern environmental standards went into effect in the 1970s."

Habitat Happenings is a monthly summary of projects undertaken by the National Marine Fisheries Service hHabitat Conservation Division.

Sep 10, 2009

Will MDOTset off wild cannibal fish spree in Penobscot Bay?

17,000 to One!
Robert Gregory, director of the Centre of expertise for aquatic habitat research with Fisheries and Oceans, Canada (DFO) says that the removal of eel grass reduces the number of age zero cod by some 80 per cent. And Other Canadian cod researchers put it thus: "Research has concluded the [eelgrass] habitat is an effective refuge from predators, where the 90-day survival rate of juvenile cod in eel grass compared to coarse/barren bottom was 17,000 to 1."

17,000 to One!

For Maine's transportation secretary David Cole , for State Senator Dennis Damon, both of whom surely know better, in company with Sierra Club (Maine Chapter) leaders, to be comfortable with a project that would take away Penobscot Bay's eelgrass and would degrade many acres more....Uh uh!

The wiliest most successful predator of age zero cod - those just out of the egg - are other cod, those a year and more older. Juvenile cod are habitat-limited populations, when insufficient weedy refuge exists for age zero codfish, still clutching their yolk sacs, to hide , they succumb to their hungry elders.

Baldacci's consensus pact w/ MCHT, Sierra Club and the shipping industries would allow mitigation off site , replacement of Sears Island's eelgrass meadows and shoals by wetlands protection or creation elsewhere. . Basically allow payment of a wergild to compensate for killing the nursery shoals off Sears Island. Taking out the eelgrass and kelp mud and cobble habitat structure to pave the way for a container port would set cannibal fish loose in Wasumkeag's maternity ward! Shan't happen!

Sep 3, 2009

Sears Island - dredging of island approaches may rise again

Sometimes it's what they DON'T write that matters.....
In a recent Belfast Republican Journal article: Port funding shift makes waves as state looks to trim budget
Searsport area politicians decry the loss of funding they say was for improving Mack Point: the reporter writes:

"The funding would deepen the channel there to allow the terminal to accommodate larger and more modern ships. It follows the improvement of the pier system at Mack Point. "

Well, that sure omits something...

Using that federal stimulus funding for dredging the approaches to Sears Island was very much on the legislators' and MDOT's minds . You wouldn't know that from the RepJournal story though.

Proof? Listen to a 7 minute audio excerpt from the March 13, 2009 meeting of ME legislature's Transportation Committee. In the recording, Commissioner Cole talks about using $timulus money for dredging near Sears island. Not right up to intertidal, but the approaches to the island - which are fish nursery shoals, too. Below is an excerpt of a transcript from the above recording of the March 13, '09 Transportation Committee hearing. At this point, Commissioner Cole has been describing uses of federal stimulus money around the state:

Cole "Searsport. Currently the Army Corps of Engineers has been doing the engineering on dredging that marine channel. That marine channel serves Mack Point but it also serves Sears Island as well. It's estimated we would need 4 1/2 million to match 16 1/2 million in federal Army Corps investment to dredge that harbor."

"That would dredge it down from 35 to 40 feet at low tide. If you go into Mack Point and Sears Island, both would need that kind of depths to optimize their ability to bring the bigger ships in ."

Representative Hogan. "But if you got an investor for the port wouldn't that be their responsiblity. Or are we talkikng about something different?"

Cole. "This is like a highway its a designated marine channel Typically the expense of dredging that goes with the federal government and the state government."

Senator Damon: "It would also be servicing the existing facility at Mack Point, wouldn't it?"

Cole: "Right. This is the channel. I'm not saying if...... Right on shore, if they need dredging that might be the responsibility of the developer. Dockside. This is the general channel coming in and out."
End of Excerpt

that is the plan. How disappointing that the Republican Journal-ist left the Sears Island part out of her article! Moral of the story - besides don't trust what you read in the papers - is that if we can succeed in keeping that stimulus money up where it's NEEDED in Eastport, it won't be spent in Searsport where it's NOT NEEDED (though wanted). Sears Island will continue to be safe; no developer wants to have to spend millions on dredging - leave that to the taxpayers!

A determined effort by the people of Eastport and Baileyville will keep that money up there, and thus keep Penobscot Bay safe.

Aug 25, 2009

Sears Island Sellouts: saga continues with: Senator Dumb'un.

State senator Dennis Damon - dubbed "Senator Dumb'un" for his studied silences upon vital ecological issues facing Maine's Penobscot Bay fisheries from port sprawl - occupies a special place of dishonor in the pantheon of Sears Island Sellers-Out that appears on occasion on this blog

Listen to Senator Damon supporting Maine coastal fisheries habitat protection and restoration at the March 19, 2008 hearing of the legislature's Marine Resources Committee. Then listen to Damon two months later at a meeting of the MDOT's Sears Island Joint use Planning Committee supporting construction of a container port on Sears Island, (right in Penobscot Bay's top fish nursery). Two-faced?

Perhaps. For Damon has taken to heart Public Law 27 7 An Act Regarding the Management and Use of Sears Island, which (unconstitutionally) confers upon the Legislature's Transportation Committee the power of final approval or disapproval over any change of use of Sears Island - an executive power granted by Maine's Founding Parents to the Executive Branch.

Senator Damon has used this unconstitutional Law 277 to lead the Transportation Committee on a rollercoaster ride, first imposing on November 18, 2008 binding conditions on MDOT forbidding the agency from signing a conservation easement agreement with Maine Coast Heritage Trust, until a container port received its permits to build and operate on Sears Island, but then , on January 13, 2009, pressuring that Committee - many members freshman legislators bewildered by the issue - into reversing its earlier unanimous 11/18/08 vote, and voting instead to waive the restriction on inking The Deal (above) that they'd earlier imposed.

What was the quid pro quo? What did the Silent Senator ask for and receive during those private meetings with the governor to which he admits having after the November 18th vote that actually saved Sears Island and before the January re-vote that put it again at risk . Meetings so private that the co-chair of the committee, Representative Mazurek of Rockland was left out of the wheeling and dealing. Let alone the rest of the committee members!

What was enough to get Senator Damon to switch not only his vote, but also to shove reversal of the unanimous vote through the members of the Legislature's latest transportation committee when it convened for the first time in January 2009. Unknowable, for while he is willing to hold forth on his own script. What irresistible plum, what pork did Governor Baldacci successfully wave before the Dumb One?

Not content with his own silence, Sentor Dumb'un muzzled the citizens, repeatedly turning down requests by concerned Mainers for permission to speak to the assembled legislative members of either committee about Sears Island. Nay, the public was already represented by Sierra Club and an ex-Earth First!er turned ENGO president
Interestingly, Senator Damon was oft to be seen with former Earth First! activist turned muzzler-of-NGO's Jimmy Freeman of Verona Island, (photo) who achieved his own peculiar renown for stifling the historic opposition to dismembering Sears Island, including the Maine Green Independent Party, the Native Forest Network- Gulf of Maine region, the Maine Earth First! clan. [Note: the Maine Green Independent Party has since removed Mr. Freeman from its leadership, and now takes a public stand against the Sears Island port plan and its mitigation scam!]

But from 2004 until that blissful MGIP moment, thanks to Jimmy's masterful efforts, (including intelligence gathering on activists for the Governor, an offer to disrupt an upcoming antiport demo, and at least one death threat), none of the three NGOs raised the slightest of murmurs of concern, let alone dissent, leaving a ragtag pack of grassrooters struggling year after year to hold the island free from development.

This while Mr. Freeman, now president of a new well-funded 501(c)(3) called Friends of Sears Island ( FOSI is jokingly known around the bay as FOPSI - Friends of Part of Sears Island), in the company of Sierra Club representative Joan Saxe, and Steve Miller of Iszlesboro Islands Land Trust, officially represented the public interest in the negotiations over Sears Island with the shipping industry and MDOT.

Yet without ever consulting that public they were tapped to represent, Joan, Steve and Jim abandoned the public demand to pierce the illegal causeway (a necessity for fish and shellfish restoration). Together, they assented when the industriocrats demanded hundreds more acres of wild wetland western bluff of the island and consensed with Industry to exempt their island splitting plan from environmental review under federal transportation law. With Friends like these, Sears Island hardly needs enemies!

One hope and prays the Maine Superior Court will shortly relieve the Transportation Committee of the burden of implementing PL 277, by the simple expedient of declaring the law in violation of the Maine Constitution's Article III Distribution of Powers.

Meanwhile, over at the marine resources committee, Damon has blocked all requests to testify concerning the habitat of the fish the committee regulates, claiming that the food, habitat and reproductive success of the fishes that the marine sources committee regulates "are not a concern of the committee."