May 30, 2013

Saturday June 1st Save Our Shoal! Noon at Sears Island Ghost Port, 2pm on the causeway

 "Save Our Shoal!" says fish conservation group.

SEARSPORT. On Saturday June 1st Penobscot Bay area citizens concerned about the effect the Searsport Harbor expansion dredging plan could have on groundfish, lobsters and human heath will be pounding the drum at noon at the Ghost Port -abandoned port site on Sears Island. Click for map of island ghostport   At 2pm activists from Friends of Penobscot Bay will hold a talk and press conference on the Sears Island causeway.  All are welcome.

Proposed outer harbor dredging area (center of photo)
ISSUE: Opponents call the expansion dredging plan misguided and a problem for Penobscot Bay's groundfish, lobsters, taxpayers and human health. (Map of dredge plan, with shoal) 

BOONDOGGLE. Critics say the harbor dredge expansion plan  is not needed for Searsport's present and future shipping needs, and is  actually part of another federal and state push to open shipping access to Sears Island.

For the dredge expansion  makes no economic sense for Penobscot Bay's  present-day or future shipping needs.  Federal and state agencies reviewing the ill-fated  DCP Midstream LPG terminal plan determined that Searsport Harbor would accomodate the gas giant's supertankers with NO  no additional harbor dredging needed.

As far as port development on Sears Island, a state funded worldwide survey of port interests several years ago found zero interest in building a port on Sears island.

More realistically, the proposed expansion dredging is a boondoggle to benefit dredging businesses. Would Prock Marine get the contract?  Pretty likely; they do a lot of Penobscot Bay dredging.

The Friends of Penobscot Bay call the Army Corps of Engineers Searsport Harbor expansion dredging plan  "Dredging a ghost harbor for a ghost port." 

Not only will it waste taxpayers dollars, the expansion dredging  will endanger Penobscot Bay's groundfish recovery.  Maps of the  dredging  show it would dig out the last of the shoal between Searsport Harbor and Sears Island. The Sears Island Shoal is well recognized by state and federal fisheries agencies as important habitat for juvenile and larval Atlantic Cod. Taking an 890,000 cubic yard  bite out of the shoal is going to reduce the quality of that nursery

In fact, it was the presence of this fragile shallow ecosystem with its eelgrass and kelp that  forced Angus King in 1996 to withdraw his Sears Island port plan. Listen to King conceding defeat on MPBN (short mp3)

Mercury is known to be present both near the Mack Point docks and out on the Searsport Shoals shoal's old sediments. The toxic metal will be released into the water column during the act of dredging and when dumping the dredge spoils further down the bay.

Both actions will result in elevated methyl mercury in the water column that travel with prevailing currents and settle in a toxic patina over the bottom.  

Lobsters living and eating in those waters will almost certainly show a sharp increase in methyl mercury in tail and claw meat.  According to a federal court ordered study of mercury contamination of the river and upper bay there are already lobsters in the upper bay with mercury levels in tail and claw meat exceeding state and federal mercury advisory thresholds for seafood consumption. 

Listen to speakers at a September 13, 2007, DMR-hosted Public Info Meeting on Cianbro's proposal to dredge Penobscot River next to the defunct Eastern Fine Paper site - some of whose mercury-rich sediments had already fouled upper Penobscot Bay according to the study. It happened.
"I know fishermen who collects these samples", Huber said,  "They've identified a toxic triangle of mercury tainted sediments in the upper bay, stretching between Islesboro's Marshall Point,  the Sears Island bell buoy and  the DMP buoy in the center of the upper bay. The proposed expansion dredge site?  Right in the heart of the this deadly triangle."

Nor will  only waterbreathing species imbibe this neurotoxin, Huber warned. New research shows that marine methylmercury that reaches shallow waters can transfer quickly and efficiently into the microdroplets of spring and summer bay fogs. 

In addition to  coating every leaf in our foggy coastal forests and island gardens with a light glaze of methyl mercury,  the substance will be also absorbed by the lungs of airbreathing animals in those fogs - including our own species.  

"The levels are small, but mercury adds up"  Huber said. 

The Friends of Penobscot Bay called on the Army Corps of Engineers to opt out of setting this dangerous substance loose in Penobscot Bay.  

"Keep it buried." said Huber. "You'll keep the bay's lobsters and people safe from mercury poisoning, and the taxpayers safe from paying for a ghos

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