Jul 9, 2012

Thanks But No Tank! Reaching out to the bottlenecked tourists of coastal Route 1

I walked through the Thanks But No Tank! demo in Searsport on Sunday. Great!!    Spanning all ages, they lined BOTH sides of Main Street, as well as a tiny pocket park that the quiet demonstrators overflowed from.

Like Wiscasset, Searsport's lovely downtown Route One bottleneck brings the great stream of Midcoast Maine's scenic summer travellers to a crawl through its small historic zone.

Thanks But No Tank!ers took the opportunity to inform thousands of these tourists  parading slowly through their town of the peril that a proposed supersize Liquified Propane Gas tank  & terminal presents to traveler and Searsport area resident alike. 

The location was chosen was well away from the entry exit of the Penobscot Marine Museum, to avoid exacerbating the general slowdown any further. 

DCP tank farm would replace forest in lower left of photo.
Note US Route 1, at left above Long Cove
The 22 and a half million gallon LPG tank proposed by Denver-based DCP Midstream  would hulk over scenic North Searsport, over Cape Jellison, and would be a regional eyesore, becoming the dominant "scenic" feature of a dozen tourism dependent bay towns.  
The citizen activists were a colorful mosaic of signs and earnest, smiling faces to those slowly going by. The tourists had the leisure to read their sign messages and info broadsheets.

The tourists learned that if a catastrophe ever took place there, the explosion at the giant tank would engulf them, as well as the oil and gas tank farm tucked  out of sight on lower Mack Point, and the GAC Chemical complex on neighboring Kidder Point. 

Not wanting to slow the bottled-necked travelers any further, however, the No Tank!ers were mostly silent, letting the toots and honks of supportive drivers passing by speak itself of the support for their cause.

Many of the tourists visiting Searsport on foot, however, had the chance to discuss the issues at length with the Thanks but No Tank!ers and their allies from neighboring towns. 

Many signed the signup sheet and caused the pile of Thanks But No Tank! buttons to shrink away.  

For more infomation, go to http://tbnt.org

Jul 6, 2012

Turning mooring stones into lobster homes

Rockport Harbor and a growing number of other places are home to new perforated  artificial mooring stones with tunnels bored through them: instant lobster habitats.

New York inventor creates lobster habitat for Maine waters  
By Shlomit Auciello  May 27, 2011 
Village Soup, Camden Herald Gazette

Right: Rockport Charters crewmember Owen Casas and owner Robert Iserbyt prepare to set a habitat mooring block in Rockport Harbor.

"The principle of this mooring is that, rather than being a  featureless block of concrete or granite, it creates habitat," said  Lobster Institute Executive Director Robert Bayer on May 26.

"It's full of tunnels," he said. "Those habitats are shelters for  lobster — which is our target — as well as crabs. Fish will swim through  it."

Bayer was in Rockport to accompany Capt. Robert Iserbyt of Rockport  Charters as he installed one of the new moorings for a customer. In  addition to installing and maintaining moorings, Iserbyt runs a 24-hour  dive, towing and water taxi service, takes visitors out on Penobscot Bay  for photography excursions, and brings campers to the islands.

The habitat mooring was invented by Stewart Hardison of Oneonta, N.Y.

"It came to me in a roundabout way," said Hardison.
"I've been into environmental issues all my life," he said. "Five or  six years ago, I became interested in wind power." He said pressure to  stop wind development in New York state led him to look toward Maine.

"Everything seemed to come back to Maine," Hardison said of the  national conversation about wind power. He said concept renderings of  the various designs for ocean wind turbines showed large mooring blocks.

"It popped into my mind that all that massive structure could be used  as habitat," he said. Hardison wrote to Ian Bricknell, director of the  Aquaculture Research Institute at University of Maine, and was  eventually led to Bayer and Lobster Institute Assistant Director Cathy  Billings.

In time, he developed the design of a large concrete block with channels molded into it, the Habitat Mooring System 4000.

Each fiberglass filament reinforced block weighs 4,025 pounds,  carries a 15-pound hitch bar, and can secure a boat of up to 40 feet in  length or more, depending on the harbor bottom and other conditions.

Iserbyt said he saw the habitat moorings advertised through Hamilton  Marine and that the cost was not much more than that of a granite  mooring.

"The fact that they have a removable hitch rod made it more  appealing," he said. Iserbyt said the hitch rod replaces the metal  staple traditionally used to connect a mooring to its chain and buoy.

"A staple needs to be put in by somebody with a crane and torches,"  said Iserbyt. "That job in itself can cost $350 or more." He said the  steel hitch rod, galvanized bolts and stainless steel cotter pins in the  habitat mooring cost about $50.
"I ordered six of them," he said.

After Iserbyt placed his order, he got a phone call from Hardison,  who wanted to see the place where those six blocks would be set.
On May 26, Hardison, Bayer, Billings and a pair of television crews  were on hand as Iserbyt and crewmember Owen Casas set a mooring. Later,  Bayer gave Iserbyt a certificate of appreciation for his "ongoing  support of the Lobster Institute."
Bayer said the invention was likely to be of greater value in  southern New England than in Maine, because the resource is healthy in  Maine waters.

He said one habitat mooring, already in place in Seal Harbor on Mount  Desert Island, is being monitored by University of Maine at Orono  graduate student Chris Roy. Divers have made video recordings of the  life that is colonizing the mooring.
Another mooring will be used as a larval lobster nursery, said Bayer.

"That's going to be done in cooperation with Brian Beal of the Downeast Institute on Beals Island," he said.

Bayer said $50 from the sale of each mooring block would go to the Lobster Institute to support its research and educational activities. He  said that 15 percent of adult lobsters in Maine had no home shelter and  that the constant search for protective habitat exposes lobsters to  predators and disrupts life cycle behavior.

"Every ball you see is a mooring," Bayer said as he looked out over  Rockport Harbor. "If every one was a habitat mooring, it would have a  large impact on the lobster population and biodiversity."

Rockport Charters has a Facebook page and can be reached at 691-1006.  To learn
 more about habitat moorings, visit the website at  habitatmooring.com.
The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello 

Jul 4, 2012

Giant Hogweed - up the River but not (yet) down the Bay coast yet

Giant Hogweed - up to 14 feet tall

This aggressive invasive plant superficially resembles Queen Anne's Lace, but looms up to 14 feet tall. (Queen Anne's Lace maxes out at 3 feet tall.)The howeed stems are up to  2 & 1/2 inch thick stems, supporting leaves up to 5 feet wide. The annual weed has multiple flower heads per plant. (QA's Lace has just one flower per plant). 

Giant Hogweed sap  is highly toxic.  According to the video in the BDN article and other sources, if the bamboo-like stems are broken open,  skin contact with the sap causes skin irritation, lasting hypersensitivity to sunlight  (see blistered arm)   Even "brushing up against and breaking open the robust hairs on the plant's leaves" can trigger the irritation, according to a Maine Cooperative Extension report. Blindness has occurred as a result of the sap touching eyeballs.

Queen Anne's Lace - up to 3 feet tall

Each Giant Hogweed plant produces 100s of floatable seeds. It has a capacity to colonize Knox,Waldo  and Hancock counties if the seeds come down the river and survive in brackish water long enough to reach shore.

If you live along Penobscot Bay or elsewhere in Maine and identify this pernicious invader, please report the sighting to State Horticulturist Ann Gibbs at the Maine Department of Agriculture at 207-287-3891  or email ann.gibbs AT maine.gov  They will help organize renoval
Because of the dangerousness of the sap, before taking on Giant Hogweed,  please review Maine Department of  Agriculture's  "Homeowners' Guide to Managing Giant Hogweed" (2 page pdf) 

Giant Hogweed was introduced into the United States  from the Near East in the early 1900s as an arboretum curiosity.

Rockland drafting letter to Searsport re giant gas tank & tankers plan

The Rockland City Council has agreed at their July 2, 2012 meeting to draft a letter to the town of Searsport asking them for an explanation of their understanding of their mutual aid agreement as it relates to the proposed DCP Liquified petroleum gas tank and terminal on upper Mack Point. See  Bangor Daily News coverage of the council meeting

Steve Miller of Islesboro asks Council to draft letter
Listen to the  city council take on the LPG issue at their July 2, 2012 meeting: 

* Council taking public comments (28 minute mp3)  from two area residents and and a delegation from Islesboro on the DCP midstream issue 

* Council discussing the issue and voting to draft a letter to Searsport (15min mp3). said letter  to be brought up for a vote  at next Monday's council meeting. (July 9, 2012)

If approved at the July 9th meeting, Rockland will join Stockton Springs  Belfast, Islesboro, North Haven, Rockport and Lincolnville in requesting consultation on the controversial DCP Midstream plan for a 22.6 million gallon Liquified Petroleum Gas tank.

Jul 2, 2012

Mapping offshore Maine's submerged wildlands with 3D sonar

The NOAA research vessel OSV BOLD  is setting out within a week  to use side scan sonar to create 3D maps of an 800 square mile area of the Gulf of Maine off the mouth of west Penobscot Bay, south to Boothbay.

See a recent  Maine Department of Conservation press release

Map shows the area that the Bold is   going to document includes the two  areas proposed for ocean windfarming off Maine: state and federal waters off waters off Monhegan, and  Boothbay.

The waters  off Monhegan are under consideration by  DeepCwind Consortium, while Norwegian-based Hywind Maine  is interested in waters off Boothbay.

The vessel will be well stocked with local scientists from academia government and industry, keen to sample as many parameters of this wild region of seamounts rising above deep muddy plains as they can during the five day voyage.

Bon Voyage!

Jul 1, 2012

Maine newspaper editorial blasts Gas giant DCP

DCP conduct raises concerns

A month ago The Journal wrote an editorial urging the Searsport Planning Board to take its time while reviewing the application by Colorado-based DCP Midstream for a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas tank at Mack Point.
So far the Planning Board has done an excellent job wading through the 700-page application document and thoroughly vetting its contents. When it found the company lacked a permit from the state fuel board they voted that the application was incomplete.
The Board also allowed for public comment on the project at its last meeting, though it was limited to half an hour. It will also hold a public hearing on the application before voting on whether to approve the project.
The Planning Board's conduct, thus far, has been as professional and considerate of all opposing views as we could ask. The conduct from DCP Midstream has not.
Two things the company said at the Monday, June 11, meeting raised serious questions. The first was a statement by a DCP attorney during the public comment portion of the meeting.
After a different DCP lawyer was denied a request to respond to public comment, DCP attorney James Kilbreth, approached planning board chairman Bruce Probert and planning board attorney Kristin Collins and whispered, "You better shut this down." His words were caught on video during the meeting.
The their credit neither Collins nor Probert stopped the public comment period. Though the Board will have tighter restrictions on comments at future meetings.
DCP does not deny that exchange took place. A representative of DCP said the attorneys objected because they felt the statements made were not factual and some speakers did not have standing. However, the speakers had waited three and a half hours to say their piece, while DCP presented evidence to the board.
Though DCP felt what was being said was not true, its attempt to interrupt and "shut down" public comment is not conduct a respectful community partner displays. Everyone deserves an opportunity to have their concerns aired.
The other statement that DCP made that must be looked at more closely is its apparent unwillingness to fund the development of a 3D model of the project. In order for the community to really grasp the size and scale of the tank proposal a good model of what it would look once built is necessary.
To date, we've seen two representations, both of which carried biases in favor of the group that produced them.
A photo illustration created by DCP last year showed the tank as it might appear from the water downplaying its size.
A model produced by local opposition group Thanks But No Tank portrayed the tank in correct scale, but it left out the topography and surrounding foliage. The omission made the tank seem larger than it probably would if built.
Both DCP and Thanks but No Tank have an inherently desired outcome, which makes their respective photo illustrations and models suspect. A third-party presentation would be beneficial to everyone, particularly those who have not yet decided how they feel about the proposed tank.
This week DCP will float balloons over the project site to demonstrate the height and width of the tank; however, a 3-Dimensional model would better demonstrate the mass.
The 3-D model would likely cost an amount that equates to a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated total project cost of $40 million. However, DCP's representatives have labeled it cost prohibitive, even though they pledged on several occasions to eventually fund the model, a promise that came more recently after TBNT produced its own scale model last winter.
This raises questions about the company's future plans. A 3-D model would help all those involved understand the project better and the company is on record promising to provide it.
If they are willing to renege on that promise, what other promise could they go back on in the future?
DCP has said it wants to be a part of this community, to provide much needed jobs and increased economic activity. In order to do so it must live up to its promises by funding a 3-D model of the tank and fully accept and encourage engagement with the people it hopes become neighbors with by allowing unfettered public comment.