Feb 25, 2009

Eelgrass researchers, regulators of NW Atlantic meeting.

The workshop Status, Trends, and Conservation of Eelgrass in Atlantic Canada and the Northeastern United States,was a two day event, February 24-25, at the Regency Hotel in Portland, Maine. Valet parking simplified the Portland parking challenge
Listen here to recordings of the day speakers

* Hilary Neckles of the Augusta, Maine office of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center started the workshop, going over the agenda and setting the issues facing eelgrass out in brief.

* Dr. Fred Short of the University of New Hampshire, held forth on "Eelgrass: the Big Picture", Lots of interesting facts emerged as Fred took us on a visit to eelgrass around our globe - it is there in the northern temperate zone - and declining around the world, too.

* Seth Barker, Maine DMR's GIS and habitat mapping expert, described Maine's eelgrass situation

Clink on the link for recordings of all of the day's speakers

From the discussions:

*Eelgrass is a flowering plant that aeons ago migrated from fresh to saltwater. In the Gulf of Maine it grows down to eleven meters deep.

*It can grow well in anoxic sediments, bringing oxygen down into its roots and discharging it into the mud, creating an oxygen-rich biological zone around the roots, called a "rhizosphere". Mats of roots can form, creating large rhizospheres.

* We have overused our coastal zone. Back in the good old days, nearshore eelgrass hosted flounder, lobster and cod in plenty. Sadly, very few cod nowadays are found in eelgrass. I.e. in shallow waters

Eelgrass wasting disease, the scourge of this plant in the early twentieth century, is now known to be attacks by the colonial slime amoeba Labyrinthula zosterae

The more nutrients in the shallow water, the more epiphytes or fouling organisms clutter the eelgrass' fronds, blocking sunlight from photosynthetic cells But at the same time the epiphytes provide food and shelter for myriads of other tiny organisms.

*Snowshoes are good for walking on eelgrass flats and mudflats without crushing the rhizospheres and without sinking deeply into them..

The Eelgrass Workshop Steering Committee - which has done a splendid job- consists of, Al Hanson of Environment Canada's Canadian Wildilfe Service, Phil Colarusso of U.S. EPA, and Robert Buchsbaum of Mass Audubon. Good work, people!

Feb 23, 2009

Sears Island: Second Lawsuit filed against MaineDOT easement

For Immediate Release Feb 23, 2009

Sears Island Conservation Easement seen increasingly in doubt .

AUGUSTA – An Augusta man has filed a petition in Maine Superior Court asking for MaineDOT's Sears Island Conservation Easement to be set aside. The move follows Thursday's filing of a similar petition (pdf) in Knox County Courthouse by a Rockland, Maine man.

Douglas Watts filed his Petition for Review of Final Agency Action on Friday afternoon in the Kennebec County Superior Court. Read Douglas Watts' Petition Here (pdf).

Watts describes himself in his petition as "an avid user of the Penobscot River and its tributaries near Sears Island since
and wrote to the court that the conservation easement signed by MDOt and Maine Coast Heritage Trust "will irrevocably harm his ability to continue using and enjoying the Penobscot River and these tributaries as he has done since 1982."

He is asking the Court to "rescind the Jan. 22, 2009 conservation easement until the MDOT has fully complied with the requirements of the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act and the Maine Site Location of Development Law."

Watts played an important role in development and passage of the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act In the late 80s and early 90's.

For more information contact Doug Watts at (207) 622-1003 or by email at info@dougwatts.com


Feb 20, 2009

Sears Island activist takes MDOT & State Legislature to court

Contact Ron Huber 207-691-7485 or coastwatch@gmail.com

Legal action filed in Maine Superior Court against state's
Sears Island Partition Plan.

On Thursday February 19, 2009, Ron Huber, an opponent of the Maine Department of Transportation's January 22nd partitioning of Sears Island into port zone and conservation easement zone, filed a "Petition for Review of Final Agency Action by the Maine Department of Transportation" with Maine Superior Court in Rockland, Maine.

The petition (pdf file) charges that the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Maine Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation violated state law and the Maine Constitution when planning and approving the partitioning of Sears Island in upper Penobscot Bay into industrial and conservation zones.
The petition calls for the Superior Court to protect the irreplaceable Wasumkeag Estuarine Complex made up of Stockton Harbor, Long Cove and Searsport Harbor, (see illustration) from irresponsible MDOT port development.
Huber has asked the Court to order the the state's 600 acre conservation easement to Maine Coast Heritage Trust to be rescinded until a careful look is taken at the environmental implications that a container port on the other 340 acres of Sears Island could have for upper Penobscot Bay/lower Penobscot River water quality and the River's and Bay's fish and shellfish

It also calls for the Superior Court to declare a 2005 law unconstitutional that gives the Legislature's Transportation Committee approval power over activities on Sears Island,by violating the Maine Constitution's separation of powers.

Plaintiff Ronald Huber of Rockland, Maine, has asked the court to:

1. Find that Public Law Chapter 277 "An Act Regarding the Management and Use of Sears Island" violates the Maine Constitution's Article III Distribution of Powers. The 2005 law improperly grants Executive Branch decision-making power to the Maine Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation.

"Get the Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation out of the Executive Branch's turf." Huber said. "Sears Island decisionmaking needs to be free of backroom politics of the sort demonstrated by the Senator Dennis Damon in his co-chairmanship of the Transportation Committee over the past year."

2. Find that MDOT and its Joint Use Planning Committee failed to comply with the planning requirements of the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act and the Maine Site Location of Development Law.

"Those two state laws have hugely important environmental impact review standards that the Baldacci administration with, incredibly, the active collaboration of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club and other "conservation' members of the Joint Use Planning Committee like Friends of Sears Island and Penobscot Bay Alliance, have tried to work their way around." Huber said. "Maine uses them to protect her places of natural biological productivity, her irreplaceable scenery, her historic and archaeological sites, from the long term effects of poorly-planned large scale developments like a container port."

Huber also criticized Senator Dennis Damon for unconstitutionally using Public Law 277 to lead the Transportation Committee into on November 18, 2008 , imposing binding conditions on MDOT's before the agency could execute the conservation easement, and then then, on January 13, 2009, pressuring his Committee into completely reversing its earlier unanimous vote, and vote to waive the restriction they'd earlier imposed.

"What was the quid pro quo?" Huber said."What did Senator Damon ask for and receive during those private meetings with the governor he admits to having after the November 18th vote?"

"What was enough to make him switch not only his vote, but also to press the members of the Legislature's latest transportation committee into switching theirs?"

"I am asking the Court to relieve the Transportation Committee of the burden of implementing PL 277" Huber said. "I trust the judge will declare it in violation of the Maine Constitution's Article III Distribution of Powers.

"I am proud as well to have a religious and spiritual relationship with Sears Island and its surrounding estuarine complex, protected under Article 1 Section 3 of the Maine Constitution." Huber said.

"This is a place that Almighty God has created to nourish, shelter and transition the salmon that morph there - freshwater to saltwater, salt to fresh, back and forth between Penobscot River and Penobscot Bay, have done so for at least 8,000 years, and will continue to do so, if I can help it. Not to mention the river herring, the sturgeon and the other fishes and water-dependent wildlife that use these sheltered fertile waters."

For more information contact Ron Huber at (207) 691-7485 or by email at coastwatch@gmail.com

Feb 18, 2009

Gulf of Maine funding sponges threaten to uselessly absorb Obama Bucks

Is it a case of : "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."?
Or is it:
"The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."?

In the case of the Gulf of Maine Restoration Collaborative, one hopes the former, but fears the latter.

For decades, Maine has had a small community of on-the-government-payroll coastal marine advocates, who revolve themselves through the doors of the Maine Coastal Program, the Department of Marine Resources, Maine SeaGrant and the Maine Cooperative Extension marine team . Shifting, as the years and decades pass, from organization to agency and back again as the funding shifts. Attending fishing industry regulatory meetings, taking part in research panels and keeping a harem of private consultants on call upon whom to shower grant monies that pass through their disbursing hands.

With the combined talents and energies of this merry band, and the greater Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, one would think that every ill that afflicts the Maine coast and its coastal waters: pollution, habitat loss, coastal sprawl, inappropriate fishing tech, mal-regulated aquaculture - every one of these challenges would have been met long ago.

Guess again.

These folks have met and spent much time (decades) and treasure on "task forces" designed to take on "bay management, aquaculture reform and more.
Those task forces have steamed furiously about the Gulf of Maine, holding meetings, dispensing coffee, catered lunches, grants and goodwill. But these task forces - run by the very same people who (see below) now want $500,000 dollars of stimulus money to outfit another intellectual armada - have always returned empty-handed.

The Maine Bay Management Study and the Maine Aquaculture Task Force (pdf) illuminate this nicely. Both well funded initiatives, they brought together the above usual suspects and a few chosen hangers-on, held copious meetings with 'stakeholders' over the course of a year or more, teleconferenced mightily, and then at their close brought out lavishly illustrated reports that were completely barren of innovation.

Neither task force, however, proposed any changes to state law or state regulation to better manage Maine's bays, or to improve aquaculture operations. Nada. The reports do conclude, with a smirk, that more cash is desperately needed to finance further adventures of the task force voyageurs.

In fact, in a sort of mea culpa, David Keeley, former head of the Maine Coastal Program and now employed somewhere within the bi-national bureaucracy of the GOMCME, confesses the failure of he and his fellow taskforcers to protect natural Maine:

"The Gulf of Maine watershed—its streams, lakes, bays, and beaches—are damaged by untreated sewage, toxic pollution, invasive species, loss of wildlife habitat, abandoned fishing gear and other human-caused impacts," Keely writes, warning that "The problems are serious and many of them, have reached or are reaching crisis proportions."

So Mr Keeley, under whose guidance and direction that crisis has taken shape, now wants $500,000 to develop "a comprehensive ecosystem restoration strategy for the Gulf of Maine".

Notice that this money would not be used to plant eelgrass, or to remove ghost traps from the water, or to in any way restore any habitat or fish stock or anything tangible.

No, it would be used to develop a "strategy". In other words, it would be spent for the creation of -what else- a task force, in which he and his revolving door friends once more tootle about the Gulf of Maine region, lamenting the lack of research, genuflecting to the wisdom of the fishing industry that has nearly destroyed the Gulf of Maine's fishes, noshing on catered luncheons and producing a report heavy on graphics but once again light on ideas.

Beyond -burp- demanding more money for more catered conferences.

Feb 17, 2009

Sears island Mitigation Bank Meeting 2/23/09 - TIME CHANGE - day to evening

Army Corps's Ruth Ladd wrote Bay Blog announcing that the February 23rd mitigation meeting at Union Hall in Searsport is going to delayed from day until evening, i.e. from 2pm to 7 pm. This change is in response to several requests that the meeting be done at night to allow more of the public to attend

Ladd will still be at Union Hall at 2 pm (as will Deane Van Dusen with MaineDOT) to chat with anyone who shows up at the original 2 pm time. FMI: Ruth M. Ladd (978) 318-8818
Chief, Policy Analysis and Technical Support Branch, Regulatory Division
New England District Corps of Engineers ,696 Virginia Road Concord, MA 01742-2751

Feb 16, 2009

End your optimism, you Climate Change Pollyannas!

In his below review of Global Warming For Dummies by Canadian Green Party leaders Elizabeth May and ZoĆ« Caron, Green Web organizer David Orton of Nova Scotia takes issue with the espousal of what is false optimism by May and other leaders in the mainstream and green conservation communities, who fail to grasp the thistle; they won't promote and lead the actual drastic  global actions necessary to survive the coming ecological crash in some semblance of civilization, focusing instead on what is essentially Titanic deckchair rearranging. Read Mr. Orton's thoughtful essay, below:

Climate Change Pollyannas by David Orton GreenWeb, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Pollyanna title for this review -- meaning a false optimism or attitude of looking for the good side of any situation -- is misleading, given the situation we face. The basic working position permeating this book is not that we are facing a civilizational and ecocide crisis of hard to grasp proportions -- which require seismic cultural and institutional changes and lifestyle change which are difficult to comprehend -- with the outcome very much in doubt. But it is the promotion of the view that good things are being done around climate change and global warming, that we are moving in the right direction, and only need to accelerate our efforts. I believe this to be a false, harmful, and very misleading Pollyanna-type message.

Full article Here

Feb 6, 2009

Sierra Club calls Sears Island sell-out a historic........what?

Was it historic, this Sears Island legislative self-abuse, its attendant gubernatorial executive ordering, those hymns to holy compromise rising from the Bangor Daily News and other outlets, all primed by the Governor's public affairs crew and his tame enviros, that just went down over the last 90 days?

The Sierra Club Maine Chapter would say so. That is, its tiny politburo, in its omniscience, would say so. They can speak - or they claim to - for thousand upon thousands of Maine Sierra Clubbers - without ever contacting them. Such outreach is unnecessary, expensive, time consuming, intrusive - a litany of negative adjectives flows freely from the all-knowing Ex Comm's keyboards when inquiry is made. !

For they are the EX-COM and as such know what is best for you and I, for Sears Island, the bay, for Maine, for the Universe!

"It has long been the Sierra Club’s position" the Cabal intones, "that the island should be limited to compatibly managed marine transportation, education, recreation, and conservation."

How long is "long", one is compelled to ask.

To those who persist in raising a pother about Club democracy, the gauntlet is thrown: fight your way into our Cabal, and rule the Four Thousand along with us! Or to perdition with ye.