Aug 28, 2015

New England's worst ocean acidification site from above: Lighthawk flights from 2013 and 2014

Project Lighthawk is a nonprofit consortium of volunteer private plane owner operators who carry out conservation and environmental  missions for enviromental groups, land trusts and others needing aerial oversight of natural areas. See sample photographs from  our 2014 and 2013 flights over and around  the tip of Kidder Point where abandoned sulfuric acid plant

July 17, 2014 Lighthawk Flight over GAC Chemical's abandoned sulfuric acid factory and acid wastes dumped alongshore between 1940 and 1970

GAC, Sears Island & upper Penobscot Bay (lg photo)

Abandoned Peninsula, old acid factory, plume 

Abandoned sulfuric acid plant, plume  (lg photo)

Abandoned acid plant from above, close-in plume 

May 3, 2013 LightHawk Flight  over GAC Chemical's abandoned sulfuric acid factory and acid wasers dumped alongshore
Tainted cove looking South. ** looking North. 

Kidder Point tainted cove & Sears Island. 

Old acid factory, eroding wastes & leacheates

Big Gassers - FOAA results,

Officials of the City of Rockland are  required to respond to Freedom of Access Act requests.  We've sent the city several FOAA requests earlier this year. Here are results 

"Meeting records, letters, faxes, emaits, attachments, phone notes, phone logs, photographs and other written and electronic records written, received or recorded by you from any source, between April 1, 2015 and May 11, 2015, inclusive, that pertain to Rockland Energy Center or its parent entity Energy Management, Inc. "

Aug 27, 2015

Sacrifice Penobscot Bay's Lobsters to Big Gas?

Incredible! Run a big gas burning power plant 100 feet from Rockland's little league field? Upwind a couple hundred yards from Rockland's elementary and middle schools? From the track, football and soccer fields? Increase the air pollution in Rockland while decreasing air pollution in Boston?  What is Boston energy magnate James Gordon, sheo fell idea this is, thinking? More jobs for respiratory therapists?

Yes,  harried Cape Wind investor Gordon, owner of EMI, sick of losing money pushing windpower, has gone back to peddling fossil fuels.  This is very bad news for the people who live and breathe in Rockland, as the plant would be  a net increaser of greenhouse gases there - and right next to the richest lobster grounds in New England.

Those lobsters, especially the post-larvae crowding the rocky shallows, will find that the gas burner's acidic emissions will turn the  surface microlayer of their habitats  into a gill-burning acid bath.  Deadly both for larval lobsters and for the microplankton ecosystem that supports them.  

Why risk a well managed  renewable resource that brings more than half a billion-with-a-B dollars a year of economic activity to the bay communities of Rockland Owls Head South Thomaston and Saint George?

The Friends of Penobscot Bay have opposed this shortsighted bay-unfriendly plan from the start.  Gordon should come to this bay and this town that he proposes to foul, and explain why that sacrifice is pleasing to him.  Explain why the richest lobster grounds in New England should be put at risk from increased carbon pollution of Penobscot Bay and increased acidification

Explain why Rockland elementary and middle schools children should be  exposed to constant acidic air pollutants  emitted 24/7/365  ba a gas plant barely more than a stone' throw from their playgrounds and classrooms.

If you feel you MUST peddle carbon instead of wind, Mr. Gordon, PLEASE do it away from the Maine coast!

Aug 24, 2015

Second Battle of Penobscot Bay: Fierce fighting along the western bay corridor.

Struggle for the bay.
In the West: Wins, stalemates, losses.

Searsport, Belfast Rockport and Rockland are most in contention by Big Energy and Big Sprawl, or are in imminent risk of same. Let's go down the list 

WIN *GAC Chemical has vowed to, by the close of this year, remove acid wastes from their Stockton Harbor shore and create a neutralizing lime trench between the tainted slope and the intertidal beach below. This first serious response to our request - repeated on and off since 1998 - may markedly reduce the impact of Maine's worst ocean acidification source. In exchange GAC gains a "pollution pardon" for those particular deposits next to the abandoned acid plant. We'll give them a pat on the head, too.

LOSS * The Mack Point Wood is reeling from fragmentation caused when natural coastal forest and soils along its southwestern reach was replaced with acres of tarp and cable clad salt piles taller than the trees they replaced. by an enterprising landowner who deforested more than 15 acres.

LOSS * A shredded automobile export operation named Grimmel has gotten an annual town permit to operate. This having followed fast trackage by Maine DEP and DMR or their respective sign-offs on the project. There is now only the grim wait.

*IN PLAY State officials running the Searsport megadredge application have fast tracked it by rejecting an effort to have the Maine Board of Environmental Protection assume jurisdiction. The dreaded Patty Aho, via her subchief Suzanne "the Butcher" Miller of the eastern Maine DEP office, is certain to approve, and Islesboro will have to once again massively increase its cash burn rate to equip its Warriors of the Law with the litigatory weapons needed to combat both the LePage administration AND the Obama Administration.


* Big Gas. IN PLAY The Carbonistan initiative from Boston to gas Rockland has been challenged but only slowed; a northern gas front is equally likely to open up the bay coast by way of Belfast. The Rockland site is a stone's throw from the city schools and athletic fields. It is even closer to the Little League Field.
A public information on the gas plant /pipeline proposal meeting was held. The gasser wannabees were not there, The public was, or course FORBIDDEN TO SPEAK, but could submit questions on little pieces of paper that had to pass through at least two censors before being aired. Mysteriously, few questions critical of the proposal made it to the moderator's microphone. Thus passeth democracy, one more razor cut to the body politic.

Belfast IN PLAY. Will Belfast save the bay by fending off a predicted northern gas invasion? (See rockland, below) Or will the Sprawl Army gas Belfast, then press south along the western Bay shore, linking up with a north expanding pipeline from Rockland? A pincer movement, spreading suburbanization and urbanization, and all their ecological disruptions in its wake? Belfast has a soul. Will it rise to the occasion. Time will tell.

* WIN South coast forests of Clam Cove saved from subdivision by land sale to unidentified 1%ers for wooded family compound.

IN PLAY *Ecomapping of western Rockport Harbor from its coastal forests to its rocky submerged cliffs moves forward on two fronts:
(1) A snapshot comparison of the present with Rockport as documented in Beedy Parker's seminal 1984 book "A natural history of the Camden and Rockport area,covering weather patterns, geological composition of the land and the varieties of plant and animal life found here."

(2) IN PLAY A continuing log of marine and tidal and shallow subtidal observations of selected areas of the harbor using standard estuary documentation gear. Seasonally Identify the species mix of the present Rockport Harbor from several points.

Around the Bay. IN PLAY
No surer way to ruin the bay's rich ecosystem of microflora and microfauna in their shallow water haunts than by replacing the natural forests, swamps and meadows above them with asphalt and cement pavements, with roofs and chemlawns, transforming that tea into a poisonous iridescent technobrew called "stormwater".

Because that sort of gutting of the bay's coastal forests tends to take place in bites, it is important to preemptively document the existing environmental and ecological conditions of today's shoal ecosystems rimming the bay's coasts, from just below the tide to shoals edge edge of the shoal. This prior to their being impacted by tainted stormwater runoff.

PENOBSCOT BAY NEEDS YOU!   if you would like to help video document our bay's shallow water habitats call Ron at the Friends of Penobscot Bay at 207-593-2744 or email

Or if you'd otherwise like to help take care of Maine's biggest bay and the wild atlantis below its surface! A bay is a terrible thing to waste.

Aug 18, 2015

Summer of Maps presentation by Kevin Frech August 17, 2015 for Friends of Penobscot Bay & Public Laboratory

Listen below to 2015  Summer of Maps fellow Kevin Frech's analysis of  forest loss and impervious surface growth, along Penobscot Bay's Route 1 corridor between 1992 & 2011 & Q&As. Read Frech report
Part 1. 10 min Intro
Part 2. 11 min Rockland 1992-2011 
Part 3. 9min 23 sec  Studywide results & Searsport & Stockton Springs results.
Part 4. 9min 41sec  Rockland discussion.      
Part 5. 10min Bay wildlife impact
Part 6. 8min 46sec  Q&A to end.
Full report audio 61 minutes
Frech, a recent Temple University graduate, described changes between 1992 and 2011. Individual forest losses  and their impact, not always immediately perceptible were made visible via Kevin's analysis, and  great graphics. 

 A big thanks to Public Laboratory and project crew, and team members Liz Barry, Sean McGinnis, Tyler Dahlberg, Duncan Bailey, Norbert Ryan and Ron Huber - and all who participated in large ways or small.

Aug 15, 2015

Rockland government and its barriers to participation - op-ed by Amy Files

Rockland government and its barriers to participation
by Amy Files

Last April, there was a big to-do: An announcement that a natural gas plant wanted to come to Rockland.

Of course there were concerns: Why the rush to sign a sales option with them? If they are going to purchase our City Hall, where would City Hall go? What are the environmental impacts? Should a plant be located so close to our schools and homes? Why do we need natural gas? How will this impact our town? Many questions! And again, what’s the rush?

If you speak to others who have faced similar proposals in other towns, you will find that this kind of rush is typical for these kinds of proposals. Things are made to feel rush, rush, rushed in order to force towns to make quick decisions. These large companies are masters of manipulation and have crafted their process — they know how to make towns and politicians feel this pressure that if they don’t act right away, they’ll forever lose out. The big money fossil fuel industry is no match for a little city with no training in this kind of high-level negotiation.

Residents who brought up concerns were belittled by some councilors and our town government — referring to their concerns as “wackadoodle,” paranoid and misplaced … among other things. Telling us we just didn’t know any better and that we absolutely had to sign on the dotted line in order for this company to make a Public Utilities Commission deadline. The whole impetus for this rush, we were repeatedly told, was because this company absolutely needed to meet this deadline. It was so important, in fact — that it was repeated to us up until the very morning of the revote, the very day of the deadline — it was repeated right up until they got the signature they wanted from us. Then they decided that they didn’t need to submit a proposal after all — it could instead wait until next year.

We were told repeatedly that this rush to vote was not a decision to bring a natural gas plant here — only a decision to begin more “conversation" about it. We were promised multiple workshops where we’d have ample time to ask questions and where we’d hear from representatives who were familiar with environmental concerns.

Since that vote to move forward, over the last three months, we’ve had one, count it — one — meeting. And this one meeting was not the workshop or “forum" that was promised — it was only another presentation from the power plant representative who did not bring with him answers to many of the questions that residents had.

In addition, residents were told that they would have the final say on this issue — when this sales option was voted on, we were told we’d be able to have a public vote to make the final decision on the plant. But when residents called City Hall soon afterwards to find out how and when this vote would occur — they were given very murky answers — leaving them to feel that City Hall would do its best to ensure that this vote was not binding.

Now — finally — an announcement of another meeting — a “forum.” The only problem? Again — barely a week’s notice! It was announced in yesterday’s council meeting that a 6:30 p.m. meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, the19th. As of writing this, the listing isn’t even on the city calendar!

If council and our town government want trust from residents, if they want us to feel like they are going to include our concerns, questions and opinions in their decision-making — they need to make a much better effort to facilitate this participation. This includes ample notice of important meetings — a minimum of two weeks, ideally more. This means following through on your promises — if you say we’ll workshop something: workshop it! If you say we’ll have multiple workshops: follow through and make it happen like you mean it. If you tell us that we are going to be able to vote on this — make sure it’s clear to everyone that you intend to ensure this will happen.

And if you say that this is only a conversation, that minds have not been made up — perhaps it would be wise to direct town staff not to go around town and on local media touting why this proposal is, in their opinion, great for Rockland. Maybe councilors and staff shouldn’t go door-to-door to businesses and residents, power plant rep in tow, facilitating his ability to sell the proposal. Perhaps it would be wise not to publish opinions in the paper making it sound as though your mind has been made up before having that public conversation — the forum that hasn’t happened.

These actions make it look as though not only has our town government clearly made up their minds, but they’ve created a strong partnership with the power plant rep (a partnership that originated behind closed doors in secret executive sessions). If our government acts or speaks clearly in favor of this proposal, it leaves us feeling that they have no real motivation to have real discussion that questions it.

And these actions only contribute to residents' sense that private development always has a one-up over residents — they have an ability to have secret meetings behind closed doors — and then what feels like a private signoff before public discussion has even begun.

When pubic discussion is rushed and isn’t delivered as promised, this sentiment is then confirmed.

Giving residents only a week or so for notice of an important meeting is a barrier to participation. It places serious burdens on hardworking residents right in the middle of one of the busiest months of the year. They need to not only make last-minute changes to their work and personal schedules — but are challenged to even have the opportunity to hear about it. One week is barely enough time to get the word out about a meeting like this. Many will miss it, not aware that it’s happening.

This is not the first time this conversation has been brought up — and likely won’t be the last. But the next time a councilor questions why residents are so quick to want to “stop a process” because they are concerned it’s being rushed, not thoroughly thought through, and lacks serious public input or discussion … this is why. Because when our staff and councilors say that their minds aren’t made up — their actions and statements speak otherwise. And when they promise that they will facilitate multiple conversations before they make their decisions — that they want public input — in a case like this, where they all seem to be in agreement on an issue — this conversation simply does not happen.

Amy Files

Aug 14, 2015

Stockton Harbor: Maine DOT wants input on replacing the bridge to Cape Jellison

Cape Jellison Bridge fans: Maine DOT is hosting a talk about its future on August 31st at the Stockton Springs town office. 

The bridge crosses Mill Stream - separating Cape Jellison from the mainland. Mill Stream connects fully intertidal Mill Pond from Mill Cove of Stockton Harbor. MDOT says the bridge is in need of major maintenance or replacement

I spoke with Leanne Timberlake, the project's senior manager. She said this is still very early phase. Hmmm...heard THAT before...) 

She understand the bridge's infrastructure to be in need or renovation and replacement. But she also said the project so far is planned as a one for one replacement, not an expansion of the bridge.

MDOT's public announcement says " They are "very interested in learning local views relative to project consistency with local comprehensive plans, discovering local resources, and identifying local concerns and issues. Anyone with an interest is invited to attend and participate in the meeting."

Again, that's Monday August 31st, Stockton Springs Town Hall, 217 Main Street Stockton Springs.

MORE INFO & MDOT contact
Leanne Timberlake, Senior Project Mgr MDOT, Bridge Program, 16 State House Sta. Augusta,ME 04333 .(207) 624-3422. 

Aug 3, 2015

Penobscot Bay sprawl trajectory 1940 to 2050 - according to the State of Maine

 Is this Penobscot Bay's growth trajectory? Rural to Suburban to Urban?
Doesn't bode well for lobsters! Scroll down below first image for larger sized growth maps.  Source Maine Coastal Program

Aug 2, 2015

Maine Lobster Festival: FOPB was there!

Rockland. Huge crowds  daily filled the living heart of the Maine Lobster Festival - the Marine Experience Tent during the July 29 to August 2, 2015 event.

The Friends of Penobscot Bay had several duties at the Festival, being educators at the baylife touchtank  There, living wild residents of Rockport Harbor and Owls Head Harbor greeted curious humanity.

Cradled in careful hands, lobsters waggled antennas, scallops squirted, urchins prickled,  a horseshoe crab used its spiketail repeatedly in a sort of tumbling acrobatics, hermit crabs kept peeping from their borrowed periwinkle and whelk shells. Sponges bobbed about, like misshapen small potatoes, 

 Rockweed was a comfortably thick floating layer topping the touch tanks' surfaces, whence lobsters could get out of sight of the thousands of Marine tent visitors. 

Of course, only a few dozen yards away, lobster cookers were busily sending their cousins off to their next lives and preparing their bodies to feed the human masses filling the nearby food tent, 

"People who care about Maine's biggest bay." That's the motto of Friends of Penobscot Bay, and that's who  joined me at FOPB's table in the Marine Experience Tent over the five days of the 68th annual Maine Lobster Festival:

 Sandra Schramm, Sally Jones, Larry Litchfield, Debby Atwell, Sheila Dassatt.
There for the bay. Thank you!

How it went: thousands of festival goers drifted table to table throughout the marine tent. They passed both sides of our display table, many lingering over the eye catching maps, bay charts and aerial photo posters (thanks David!).  

Whereupon these Bay Friends held forth singly or en masse, telling of the the pollution past present and future of Penobscot Bay.and of What Needs Doing.

We  spoke of the 21st century threat of mega-dredging Searsport Harbor's mercurious substrates and dumping it at the head of the drowned river canyon that lies between Turtle Head & Northport. 

Releasing these spoils - the Corps of Engineers acknowledges ruefully - into killing mushroom mudclouds well beyond maintenance needs. 

On behalf of - what else? Big Oil. 

How Big Oil's top Maine lobbyist - doing a revolving door stint as Maine Commissioner of Environmental Protection - was skillfully ramrodding the project through.  

There were GAC Chemical's 19th and 20th century industrial wastes, staining and burning Stockton Harbor from on highOf our hopes that the company will finally dig out its worst wastes next to the abandoned sulfur pile. This year!
There were google earth posters showing the  airshed adjoining  a proposed gas gobbling power plant in Rockland Maine, and the proximity of the burner's exhaust stack to the city's little league field, elementary and middle schools.  To sprout gas feeder lines to stimulate sprawl along west Penobscot Bay's thickly forested lobster coast, between Rockland  and Belfast appears to be a long term goal of the would be suburbanizers and urbanizers. 

That such would slowly but irreparably degrade lobster habitat and water quality does not appear to merit their attention.  But it does  get our attention!

Around Sandra, Debby, Larry, Sally, Sheila  & I, the visitors swirled, closing up in ranks 4 and five deep nearby as they awaited their turn to meet the wild maine sea life that was holding court in the two elevated shallow salt pools at the southeast end of the tent.  

Or watching two Brooks trapmill men put lobster traps together.
A nautical knot-master at work. (He told me the secret of the Gordian Knot, but I'm forbidden to pass it on.) It was loud..I mean LOUD in the Marine Experience Tent! One had to shout, or at least project well, to be heard by the person next to you. 

Along with local nautically flavored authors and artists displaying their wares in the tent, I interviewed Sheila Dassatt, executive director of Down East Lobstermen's Association on how the Maine lobster industry fared under the legislature.  Her recorded voice may be only barely louder than  the crowd-roar filling the tent. We'll see

Again, thanks Sally, Sandra, Larry and Debby and Sheila for helping enlighten the People as to the challenges Maine's biggest bay has faced, is facing and will face.