Dec 30, 2010

Mainers are farming their lobsters. Confirmed.

In his 2010 report "Use of Herring Bait to Farm Lobsters in the Gulf of Maine"  Gulf of Maine research institute researcher Jonathan H. Grabowski, says it is "human augmentation" of wild lobsters' natural diets with herring bait that keeps the population of lobsters high and steady.

Is that really "farming"?  Well, yes. Not exactly "herding" the lobsters, but establishing diffused underwater CAFO concentrated animal feedlot operations, only in the case of lobsters, DAFOs Dynamic Animal Feedlot Operations that travel with the migrating lobsters. A sort of crustacean welfare.
Of course these feedlots require the hunter/gatherer herring fleets that ply the Gulf of Maine, zone by seasonal zone, seeking out and tapping into the great schools that also feed other fishes, the marine mammals and seabirds.
Last year these boats made  60,000 metric tons of herring  (about 132 million individual fishes)  directly available to the bristly palates of  Maine's lobsters via the lobster traps. (Herring average about a pound each, and  about three pounds of bait are used per  pound of lobster captured).

There are myriad other elements to this watery agribusiness from boatbuilders to regulators and tax gatherers, but the care we take in these two fisheries are key to the success of the whole enterprise as it value-adds its way into the greater economy.
(photo courtesy Lobster Adventure)

Dec 26, 2010

Rockland Harbor, 2nd day of Christmas

No Partidges in a Pear Tree, but how about Pigeons on a Power Line? I took a quick chilly trip to my city's harbor. Below and  at the link are some photos of birds and boats of Rockland's harbor, as afternoon waned, this December 26, 2010, as Maine awaits the snowstorm heading north from the midAtlantic.

Dec 23, 2010

Dragon shedding again?

Dragon Cement Products' clinker hill in Thomaston, Maine, which was supposed to shrinking, seems to be GROWING And ERODING.

Clinker is cement maker's waste: like dottle in a meerschaum pipe. Imperfectly burnt stuff .

In the photo the jagged horizontal line on the side of the snow-covered clinker mountain is where the artificial soil put on it to prevent erosion (in response to a lawsuit by Neighbors for a Safe Dragon) has collapsed.

This is baring the cement waste to the elements, leading to erosion and to the leaching of toxic clinker funk into a marsh leading into the Weskeag River.

Dec 22, 2010

BOEMRE & state meeting November 16, 2010, Augusta ME. AUDIO

11/16/10.Augusta. Federal & Maine state ocean wind officials meet for second time & discuss opening offshore grounds to energy leasing. Listen to them!
1 Introduction 7 minutes
2 General introductions. 5 Minutes
3 Introduction by Karin Tilberg 5 minutes
4. Introduction by Maureen Bornholdt 3 minutes
5. Aditi Mirani, Boemre 4 minutes
6. Matt Nixon Me State Planning Office on "Maps & Gaps" 24 minutes
7 Deirdre Gilbert with Island Institute slides 7 minutes
8. DMR Commissioner George LaPointe 1 minute
9. Matt Nixon on Recreational Fisheries 1 minute.
10. Matt Nixon on commercial vessel traffic maps 5 minutes
11. Nixon on "Non-Consumptive" resources, incl viewshed 6 minutes
12. Nixon summarizes data gaps and needs 9 minutes
13.* Karin Tilberg summarizes GIS data value. 3 minutes
14. Karin Tilbert on Federal Letter of Intent to Coordinate Review and Approval Processes. 10 minutes
15. Karin Tilberg takes questions on Federal Letter changes and does wrap up. 21 minutes.
16. Professor Rebecca Holberton, University of Maine ornithologist. 8 minutes
17 Ron Huber, Penobscot Bay Watch, on RFI respondents and water current issues. 8 minutes

Dec 21, 2010

My visit to the Governor's office - a final Baldacci freedom of information moment

Drove through the sleety rain from the Penobscot Bay coast to Augusta, pleasantly surprised to discover my  mp3  was full of Yes and Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow. The miles melted away as the Camden Hills rose and receded, and the lakes shimmered past, their frozen edges portending icefishing in times to come.
Suddenly it was Augusta and then flash forward and the patient receptionist at Governor Baldacci's office  has registered my appointment and bade me wait in the seating nook under the grand staircase of the echoey empty Hall of Flags, where lobbyists awaiting the Governor cool their heels.  

The capitol is absolutely throbbing with political life forms (except in still-barely-Governor Baldacci's office, where the dutiful staff  have boxes piled up around their cubicles, but continue to answer constituent calls otherwise do the gubernatorial thing to the bitter end, when the lights go out on the Baldacci Administration.)

But in a flash Karla Black was there, leading me to the empty governor's conference room, where about two reams of paper documents await my inspection.   Ever efficient Black has provided mini-postits to stick on "keeper pages" that I want copied.

Then the door shut and I was alone with my roughly thousand pages of documents, and 2 hours to peruse them and select which to keep which not.  (For I know I have a great multitude of them already through a federal FOIA request of BOEMRE (pronounced "Bummer"). Why pay a quarter a page for 100s of pages I've already got?)

So I took the stack and split the trump into months.  Then It was time for the Great Sift:  I started speed reading these government emails (all of which were addressed to Karin Tilberg, the Governor's special assistant for renewable energy, either directly or she was cc'd,).  Key names like Maureen Bornholdt, Habib Dagher,  Aditi Mirani, Stacy my own name.  

Hah! How they howled, it turns out, as I lashed them - the feds and state officials -by blog and by tweet, by facebook  and e-lists, and in the mainstream and  fishery press!  A handful of aroused coasters came down on the governor and politicians and bade them threaten not their livelihoods, forcing officials state and federal to parley to come up with rebuttals or, worse, to come up with means of ignoring the concerns.

On through the pages I plowed, in their tens and hundreds. Some months held but a mere dozen or two emails, another month  half a ream's worth.....An hour and a half passed before I sat back and surveyed the documents divided into keepers and leavers. 

Then it was time, and I stacked them into two stacks, picked up my debris, and returned to the quietly busy governor's office. (No sign of His Nibs).The receptionist pressed a button and Karla Black came out from the inner sanctum. From governor country. Public stay out.

Karla was a little surprised at how many  pages I wanted  - about 250. The last time there I'd only kept  dozen out of of  around 300 pages.

She warned me that the cost would be 25 cents/page. (I'd hoped it was a dime, like MDEP sometimes charges per page). But then she cut me a deal on postage, so we parted amicably amd I sailed back down Route 17, homeward bound.

Dec 20, 2010

DeepCwind - will it get DeepSixed by Republican Pork Hawks?

There it was in the news: A rejected federal appropriation bill left the  DeepCwind Consortium's distant water  offshore windpower project quite suddenly stripped of nearly all of its funding! 
   Said the PPH: "Funding in the [now-dead] legislation included... $10 million for deepwater, offshore wind research at the University of Maine at Orono, and myriad of other spending initiatives."
    Dr. Habib Dagher,... said the $10 million was a continuation of funding from a competitive grant won by the university......Dagher said that the program was also promised $20 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy budget after Secretary of Energy Steven Chu came to visit Maine. That funding also is contingent upon Congress approving a new budget."

Absent philanthropic grand gestures from the Monied Progressives; this project may have no where to go for the foreseeable future.  One hopes this doesn't open the door for pressure to be brought to induce closer-to-shore piledriven wind nightmares like those proposed as "Cape Wind"...

Dec 18, 2010

Sears Island: Maine Supreme Court told "solemn occasion" merits their intervention

I went to Portland Friday and, as required, filed my Sears Island Supreme Judicial Court case's "Appellate Brief". By law, the Supreme Juidicial Court meets as the "Law Court" to consider appeals like mine. Here is a  link to the 20 page Brief and other filings

The brief (well I guess at 20 pages it's not very brief)  lays out my arguments as to why the Law Court should agree with me and tell the lower court (Judge Jeffrey Hjelm of Waldo County Superior Court) to take a fresh look at my case and actually consider the issues.

As a  non-lawyer's effort. this appeal is of course prone to imperfections that a legal secretary etc would polish away or prevent. Yet it takes a certain naiivete to break new ground. To raise one's head out of the box and chart a different yet logical course.  That is what the case attempts.

Judge Hjelm had ruled in September that since there wasn't an actual port plan out there, there was no way I or anyone else was being harmed by the conservation easement that gives 2/3 of Sears Island to Maine Coast Heritage Trust "in perpetuity", and defines the rest of the island as a "Marine Transportation Zone".  Something shamefully agreed with by the Sierra Club, which argued ridiculously in favor of MDOT's claim that the island could support BOTH an industrial port AND wildlife and scenic & recreational resources; the so-called "Joint Use" plan.

I told the Law Court that there was another issue I had raised in my case, one Judge Hjelm didn't consider. Can the Supreme Judicial Court make him consider it?

 I hope so.  I had to  raise a few..novel constitutional arguments.

Dec 15, 2010

Offshore Wind Energy: Coastal Stakeholders event. Panel 3 audio from Dec 14th mtg

The Island Institute sponsored: Offshore Ocean energy: Tools and Information for Coastal Stakeholders on December 14, 2010. Panel three of the meeting included people and organizations in Rhode Island & Massachusetts, states which are further into the offshore wind planning & decisionmaking than Maine.The panel also includes a rep of tidal energy developer ORPC.  Moderated by Dave McGlinchey, Manomet Center for Conservation Science.

Panel 3 Lessons Learned from Siting Renewable Energy Projects
* Introduction by Dave MccGlinchey 2 minutes

* Kim Gaffett, Mayor Block Island. 15 min

* Rick Ballavance,Rhode Island Party & Charterboat Association 15 min

* John Weber, Massachusetts Coastal Zone Mgmt 20 min
* Glen Marquis, Ocean Renewable Power Company 13 min

* Question and Answer Session 19 min

Dec 7, 2010

Offshore Wind Conference: Dec 14th Belfast

On Tuesday December 14th, 2010, the Island Institute will host the "Offshore Wind: Tools and Information for Coastal Stakeholders" conference. 

Topics are the standard fare for these events:
* "Maine's new offshore wind goals
* Critical factors that will impact the development of offshore wind
 * East Coast experiences with offshore wind siting
* Concepts and tools for evaluating ocean renewable energy projects

* Improving the community outreach and permitting process

In this context, "improving the permitting process"  means weakening the environmental & conservation rules .  Island Institute, NRCM, CLF and a host of other eco-yuppy outfits have decided the War on Carbon's end justifies the means; laudably global in thinking but hideously impractical for the health of the wild Gulf of Maine.

Dec 4, 2010

Ocean WindRush boosters should look before leaping offshore.

The federal decision to fast-track the siting of  ocean windmills off  the US mid Atlantic and New England coasts ("Smart from the Start")  risks leaving many environmental issues that could affect the future of Maine fisheries environment  unexplored until irretrievable commitments are made.

To make things worse, New England Fishery Management Council, which has been spending years developing Essential Fish Habitat protection in these same waters, has washed its hands of the issue and will not represent the commercial fishermen's interests in the federal ocean wind process.

Organizations like CLF, NRCM & Environment Maine too, are doing nobody any good. Their uncritical endorsement of the Obama Adminstration's decision to weaken marine environmental laws in order to "expedite" the leasing and permitting of offshore windpower extraction, runs counter to their own mission statements of conserving Maine's and the Gulf of Maine's living marine resources.

CLF should know better; the latter two organizations have very little experience with ocean conservation issues  Both of them, however also vigorously supported weakening of Maine's  land conservation laws, in order to "expedite" the permitting and licensing of  mountaintops for windpower extraction  by large absentee energy companies. Unsurprisingly, all three organizations take money from the wind power industry

 All three ENGOs have fallen prey to an end-justifies-the-means philosophy which holds that  the  Carbon Crisis requires we literally destroy our villages locally to save them globally. A noble sentiment;  but one not necessarily shared by a majority of the villagers whose lives and livelihoods they so blithely propose to alter.  they so blithely

For a windrush is ON.  Windfarm-able ocean zones are proposed from Maine, in the path of the  Eastern Maine Coastal Current, and all the way down the Atlantic coast to Florida, where the Gulf Stream itself may be affected as it passes through vast  ocean windfarms planned off along the south Atlantic  and midAtlantic coasts.
 We know ocean windmills generate fogbanks. We also know that something happens to ocean hydrology when all that energy is diverted away from the intended Ekman Transport into the water column - the force that puts windpower into the ocean, but we aren't surewhow much.

But the stakes are large For instance, one of the areas proposed for ocean windfarming off Maine is in the route of a current that transports  lobster larvae from waters off Lubec south to Penobscot Bay.

Will diverting any of that current east into the Gulf of Maine's deep basins take a lot of larvae with it? NRCM, Environment Maine and other groups need to look before they blindly leap onboard the federal offshore windrush.

We've seen the results when other newly exploited marine resources get piled on by everyone who can afford to be out there. Unless other states follow Maine's lead of promoting floating deepwater windmills, well offshore, states will find it impossible to reposition ocean windfarms if they are found later to destabilize the Atlantic coast's currents.

Natural Resources Council of Maine,  Environment Maine and other land conservation groups groups should proceed with caution when entering ocean wind energy policy issues.

* On the influence of large wind farms on the upper ocean circulation Göran Broström, NMI

Another Brostrom piece summarizing the first one.
Merete B. Christiansen and Charlotte B. Hasager, Risoe National Laboratory,  Denmark
Excerpt: "Wake effects were observed for downstream distances of 5-20 km, depending on the ambient wind speed, the atmospheric stability and the fraction of turbines operating during SAR data acquisitions."

*Wind power could alter currents:  Discovery News story