Mar 2, 2014

Fishermens Forum 2014. Searsport dredge issue taken up by Maine Legislators & DMR Commissioner. AUDIO

The latest word on the Searsport Harbor expansion dredging project,  as spoken by  the Senate Chair of the Maine Legislature's  Marine Resources Committee and by Pat Keliher,  Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner, at the Maine Fishermen's Forum Saturday March 1st 2014. 

The committee was holding  an "Ask us about what we've been doing / Tell us what we need to know."  event at the forum Saturday afternoon.  
In photo, Committee members from left: Representative Chuck Kruger, Rep. Ralph Chapman, Rep. Ellen Winchenbach, Senator Chris Johnson, Representative Walter Kumiega, Senator Ed Mazurek and Rep.Mick Devin

In these two short recordings culled from the lengthy event which was hosted by Maine DMR Deputy Commissioner Meredith Mendelson,   Senator Johnson responds to a statement and question by Friendship lobsterman Richard Nelson and  Commissioner Keliher responds to a statement by Ron Huber  of Friends of Penobscot Bay to the Legislators  about oversight of DMR's role in dredging.
Richard Nelson, lobsterman, Robin Hadlock-Seeley, rockweed biologist
Friendship lobsterman Richard Nelson   observed in detail how many  state, federal and NGO marine policy initiatives & programs are floating around in state & federal Gulf of Maine waters, how disconnected from each other they mostly are, and thus ineffective, when it comes to actual "ecosystem" management. Combine that with the mercury problem of the river and  the dredging in the bay, the floating wind plantationing of the lobster and tuna grounds, and things don't look all that good.
SenatorJohnson, Representative Kumiega, Senator Mazurek
Chris Johnson, the Marine Resources Committee's Senate chair responded  for three minutes and 20 seconds and used the Searsport dredging controversy as an example of what the legislators have done to try to meet these challenges including the crafting and sending of a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers in response to the concerns of the people

Ron Huber, executive director of Friends of Penobscot Bay observed that the Marine Resources Committee has oversight of DMR, and that DMR has a key role in decisionmaking on the Searsport dredge expansion plan. 

Representatives Kruger and Chapman
This being a big project, and Maine's longtime environmental reviewer no longer with the agency, and DMR being under tremendous pressure..... 

Would you please as oversight committee, I said, make sure DMR's guy is allowed to review the project without interference?

Commissioner Keliher was asked by the committee to respond to Huber's comments. He replied for 2 minutes 27 seconds. Keliher said he was well aware of the past and recent history of the project. The dredge ball is presently in Maine DEP's court, he said.  When they're reached a certain step, DEP will then ship the whole mass of info to DMR for inspection and review by Keliher's agency

In a long-hoped-for break with the past, Maine's present day commissioner says he has gotten the word from the fishing community that there are problems lurking in those Searsport harbor sediments.  DMR will definitely host a public hearing-with-an-H on the proposal, putting an end to a decades long insistence on holding "public meetings"  not "public hearings", Keliher said that it will be held in "Searsport or Bucksport depending on what type of facility is required."  [?]

Mercer: Speak no evil?
The DMR Commish said a scientific team was being assembled under agency research director Linda Mercer to review the project - a not entirely reassuring revelation, given both the flat horizon of DMR research accomplishments during her decades as research director ** and her acquiescence with the "jobs over nature", "keep-the-public-uninformed, out-of-the-loop, and-at-arms-length" standards so unpleasantly first championed by early1990s DMR Commissioner Robin Alden under Governor Angus King.

Overall? Very good news: Maine's marine agency and its state legislature are on the ball about this project with its bay-disrupting potential.

** Note:  Or if not flat, then they were "stealth" accomplishments. Mercer also seems aggravating offended by public access requests  to review agency documents, as though they are not only holy writ but so holy that profane eyes may not rest upon them except carefully limited  selected documents viewed in absentia from its fellow files.  Even the agency's most completely non confidential environmental  land permit review files are locked  with her approval as tight as that other Fort Knox, down south. This does not bode all that well for transparency among the dredge research team. 

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