Nov 22, 2013

Belfast City Council joins baywide call for EIS study on Searsport megadredge & spoil dump plan

Belfast City Council votes to join other concerned towns around Penobscot Bay in calling for EIS of  Searsport harbor expansion dredge/disposal plan

Listen to the Belfast City Council (8min 30sec) on November 19th  reviewing a
letter from Islesboro's selectboard and then voting to join the chorus of towns around the bay calling for preparation of an Environmental Impact Study on the controversial Searsport Harbor  mega-dredge plan.

Listen to Friends of Penobscot Bay board member Peter Wilkinson speak to the Council in support of their decision to call for an EIS for the project.

Wilkinson pointed out that one of the top concerns is the  release and resuspension of a lobster-choking witches' brew of  mercury and other toxics into the waters of the upper bay, , with predictably severe impacts on lobstering

 Belfast resident Tony Kulik also spoke to the Belfast City Council urging them to send a letter to the  Army Corps of Engineers concerning the dredge spoils threat.

 Media coverage of the City Council meeting.

Media coverage of 11/18/13 Belfast city council vote to join bay towns calll for EIS of megadredge plan.

Belfast Republican Journal
City to send letter asking for further study of potential impact of project

Council raises concerns about proposed dump site for Searsport dredging project

BELFAST — Belfast councilors weighed in on the proposed plans to dredge Searsport Harbor at Mack Point and called for more environmental review before the project moves forward.
The proposed dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Maine Department of Transportation calls for removing nearly 1 million cubic yards of material from the harbor. The spoils from the dredge would then be dumped off of Islesboro or at a Rockland site.
Specifically, the dredging project would involve increasing the depth of the entrance channel and turning basin in Searsport Harbor from its current depth of 35 feet to 40 feet deep. In addition, the entrance channel would be widened at its narrowest point from 500 feet to 650 feet wide.
Finally, a maneuvering area would be created in Long Cove, which is adjacent to the eastern berth along the State Pier, according to the ACE.
Because of the potential impact to the island community, the Islesboro Board of Selectmen asked the city to send a letter to the ACE requesting a detailed Environmental Impact Statement or a full Supplemental Environmental Assessment be completed before the dredging project begins.
In the letter sent to the council, the Islesboro selectmen state the proposed dredging would “have an adverse effect on businesses in the region, especially lobstering, boatyards and the service sector built upon a scenic and environmentally viable bay.”
Later in the letter, the selectmen state that they are not questioning the need for minor dredging in Searsport Harbor, but that their issue is with the amount of material proposed to be dredged.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, Belfast resident Peter Wilkinson urged the council to not only send the letter requesting additional study of the project, but to demand that the studies be completed.
Wilkinson said there is concern that the amount of material that will be removed as part of the proposed dredging project will allow for further development at Mack Point — possibly in the form of a deep water cargo port.
“If it became a deep water cargo port there would be such disruption of the bay it would make the formerly proposed LPG tank seem somewhat benign in comparison,” Wilkinson said.
City Manager Joseph Slocum noted in his manager's report to councilors that he spoke with a local fisherman who said the area where the dredge spoils would be dumped off of Islesboro is a valuable resource for incubating young lobsters.
Councilor Mike Hurley said he also spoke with local fishermen who had concerns about the location of where the spoils would be dumped before he motioned to have the city send a letter to the ACE asking for the Environmental Impact Study or a full Supplemental Environmental Assessment.
After further discussion, Hurley clarified that the council is not opposed to the dredging but it is concerned about the location where the dredged materials will be dumped.
Mayor Walter Ash agreed and questioned whether a suggestion could be made to the ACE to consider dumping the spoils on land as opposed to in the bay, which could negatively impact fishing grounds.
“I'm quite concerned about it myself,” Ash said of where the spoils would be dumped.
Councilors unanimously approved Hurley's motion to send a letter to the ACE asking for further study of the dredging project before it begins

Nov 16, 2013

Penobscot Bay's sewage plants dump 2.4 billion gallons of treated wastewater into the bay every year

What do the people of Rockland, Camden, Belfast, Searsport, Castine, Islesboro and North Haven have in common? Our sewage treatment plants discharge about 6.5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the bay per day, or 2.4 billion gallons per year. 

Operating a sewage treatment plant is both an exacting technological process and a demanding art. Maine DEP monitors the outfall reports from these operations, praising those which stay within their discharge limits and prodding those that don't into bettering their ways. 

Here are  links to each of these towns' most recent DEP wastewater treatment licences and their DEP ID numbers

Note MGD = million gallons per day
3.3 MGD  5.7bypass
 Rockland POTW, City of (PDF) (25 pp, 216K)ME010059511/21/2009

Rockland (Atlantic Ocean)
Rockland POTW, City of (PDF) (84 pp, 229K)ME010059512/21/2007

Rockland POTW, City of (PDF) (13 pp, 102K)ME010059501/31/2008

Camden (Camden Harbor Watershed) 1.21MGDCamden, Town of (PDF)(32 pp, 3MB)ME010013707/18/2003

Belfast (Belfast Harbor) 
1.49 MGD 
Belfast POTW, City of (PDF) (81 pp, 3.2MB)

BelfastMoore’s Septic, Inc. (PDF)(40 pp, 3.2MB)

Searsport  0.20 MGD Searsport, Town of (PDF) (79 pp, 1.4MB)ME010196611/12/2008

(East Pen Bay)   0.0637 MGD
Islesboro, Town of (PDF) (11 pp, 1.8MB)ME010026901/20/2012

Castine Castine POTW, Town of (PDF) (15 pp, 55K)ME010119203/12/2008
0.126 MGD (Castine Harbor)Castine POTW, Town of (PDF) (77 pp, 2.3MB)ME010119212/29/2009

North Haven Drinking H2O filter plant  MGDday (Fresh Pond)North Haven DWTP, Town of (PDF) (34 pp, 1.1MB)ME010248208/02/2012
 2,000 GPD (0.002 MGD)North Haven DWTP, Town of (PDF) (22 pp, 1.1MB)ME010248206/15/2007

Vinalhaven(Atlantic Ocean) 0.129 mgdVinalhaven POTW, Town of (PDF) (49 pp, 2.1MB)

Nov 9, 2013

At 11/6/13 press conference, legislators & public called for EIS of Searsport dredge plan. Audio of meeting

On November 6, 2013, bay activists held a well-attended press conference to discuss requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out an environmental impact study of the proposed expansion dredging of Searsport Harbor.

The press conference featured three state legislators from the Marine Resources Committee, and an Islesboro selectman. It was also attended by concerned citizens.

Below are recordings (mp3) of the speakers and the questions they received from journalists and the public.

1 introduction 1 min

2 Representative Kumiega Chair Marine Resources Committee 1 min 34sec 

3 Senator Chris Johnson Marine Resources Committee  2 minutes

4 Rep Mick Devon, Marine Resources Committee 3min35sec

5. Arch Gillies, Islesboro Selectman 4min 35 sec

6 Q&A 1. 6min 37sec

7 Q&A 2. 5min 189sec

8. Q&A 3.  3min 47sec

9. Q&A 4.  4min 15sec

More photos from event 

Nov 7, 2013

Maine Legislators and Penobscot Bay communities call for dredging study - Republican Journal's meeting coverage

Legislators join bay communities in call for dredging study

Project challengers air concerns about economic, environmental impacts
BELFAST — Representatives of regional environmental groups joined three Maine Legislators Wednesday, Nov. 6 to formally request that the the Army Corps of Engineers conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for an $11.2 million proposed dredging project at Searsport Harbor.
Reps. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, and Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, joined Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville, at the Wednesday, Nov. 6 press conference, which was held at the Belfast Boathouse. Islesboro Selectman Arch Gillies was present to address concerns his town has raised in regards to the proposal, as was Islesboro Island Trust Executive Director Steve Miller and Sierra Club representative Becky Bartovics of North Haven.
Johnson and Kumiega are co-chairs of the joint committee on Marine Resources, and Devin is a member of the committee.
Devin, who is also a marine biologist, addressed his concerns as a professional and as a representative of District 51, which includes Monhegan Plantation.
Devin said due to his background as a retired naval officer with experience driving vessels of all sizes, he said he understands the need for maintenance dredging to keep shipping lanes open and safe. That said, Devin questioned the need for a dredge project of this size.
"However, the scope of this project goes well beyond maintenance dredging. The plan to dredge over 900,000 cubic yards of sediment is more than 20 times what was removed in previous dredging events. The project as proposed could drastically impact the environment and ecosystem," stated Devin, reading from a prepared statement.
The proposal
Previously published reports state the River and Harbor Act of 1962 first authorized the initial phase of work for the Searsport Harbor Federal Navigation Project, according to the ACE, and construction was completed there in 1964. The project consists of a navigation channel and turning basin, which at that time was authorized at 35 feet deep, and located in front of the piers at Mack Point. According to the ACE feasibility study for the proposed project, there has been no maintenance to the channel, and therefore the study calls for the removal of about 37,000 cubic yards of maintenance material.
The project proposal also includes plans to remove an additional 892,000 cubic yards from the area to deepen both the existing entrance channel and turning basin from their authorized depth of 35 feet to a depth of 40 feet, and another 31,000 cubic yards at the two existing piers.
The proposed disposal site for the nearly one million cubic yards of dredge sediment is located in upper Penobscot Bay, between Belfast Harbor and Islesboro.
The letter to the Corps that include Kumiega and Johnson's signatures and those of more than 25 additional Maine Legislator co-signers, stated, in part:
"The lobster fishery is Maine’s only healthy fishery and the economic mainstay of most coastal towns and offshore islands. We cannot risk harm to this critical resource."
What could it hurt?
Devin stated he was concerned the project could adversely impact fin fish like winter flounder, as well as lobster, sea urchins and scallops, all of which use the area as their nursing grounds. In addition, Devin raised concerned about the contaminants that may lie below the surface at the bottom of the channel as a result of industrial runoff and fuel spills that have occurred in and around Mack Point in the past.
Devin questioned where those toxins will go and how they might impact the fisheries that are vital to the state's economy.
"Marine larvae in the water column will especially be at risk. What steps will be taken to mitigate the impact of these released contaminants? What will be their consequence on human health?" stated Devin.
Devin also raised concerns about where that 900,000-plus cubic yards of dredge spoils will end up, and how it might affect that destination.
"There are numerous unanswered questions in the Army Corp's present plan, and even those questions that have answers are unsatisfactory," he stated. "It seems to me that a more thorough plan to mitigate the impacts to these animals should be developed, especially because so many Maine jobs rely on them."
Johnson agreed. He said the potential impact must be weighed alongside any benefit to the region, especially when he said the total impact of the lobster industry is valued at about $1.7 billion, a figure that includes benefits to businesses related to the industry.
Close to home
Gillies said Islesboro officials hope to garner the support of surrounding Penobscot Bay communities in the push for a more detailed study of the project, just as they did when they formally opposed the now-defunct proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream to build a Liquified Petroleum Gas storage tank at Mack Point. Town officials there have written two letters to the ACE urging that agency to conduct a more comprehensive analysis about the potential impacts of the dredging, Gillies said.
"I was very pleased that 11 towns in this area in the bay voluntarily joined in to question the [DCP] application, and then to oppose it," said Gillies. "I am hopeful the same thing will happen again."
In this instance, Gillies said, a more detailed study would produce more recent data that could then be used in broader discussions about what is best for the region.
Bartovics and Johnson both said the data used in the ACE environmental assessment for the proposed project is as much as a decade old.
"This is part of the process of asking them to do their due diligence," said Bartovics.
Sally Jones of Bangor, who brought along a giant replica of an Atlantic salmon, asked if the requested study would also include an assessment of the possible impacts on that species of fish.
Jones said there has been a big effort in Maine to clean up the Penobscot River as a way to help rehabilitate the salmon population, and she is concerned this project could damage any gains made on that front in recent years.
"So why wouldn't we also be mindful of the bay?" she said. "Perhaps a dredge can be done mindfully, but it's not going to be mindful without an Environmental Impact Study.

Bay protectors call for EIS of Searsport Harbor mega-dredge plan. Audio & photos

On November 6, 2013, the Sierra Club & Islesboro Island Trust hosted a press conference calling for the federal govt to prepare an Environmental Impact Study on a controversial plan to massively increase dredging of Searsport Harbor including fish nursery shoals near Sears Island.

Listen to the press conference and Q&A period. 32 minute MP3
Photos of the press conference and Q&A period 17 photos

Media Coverage: WABI TV** 2nd WABI-TV story ** WCSH-TV ** Bangor Daily News ** Working Waterfront