Balloon test gives locals floating visualWould-be tank developers take proposal to skies
Searsport — Those driving along Route 1 in Searsport Thursday morning, June 21, likely spotted five large balloons — one red, four yellow — floating over the treetops in some areas of town, and the unusual view seemed to be attracting a fair amount of attention from locals and passersby.
The exercise was the latest of many steps Colorado-based DCP Midstream is undergoing as part of the company's effort to satisfy requirements set forth in town ordinances.
The company hopes to construct a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point in Searsport, a project that has been met with opposition by some locals, who have expressed concern about the development's potential impacts on the tourism industry, safety and the general way of life in town. Officials and residents from neighboring towns in the Midcoast, like Islesboro and Camden, have also recently come forward with similar concerns, including how much their municipal budgets might increase, particularly in the public safety lines, if the tank were to be constructed.
Those arguments have been countered by comments from locals who have publicly expressed interest in seeing the project become a reality, noting the development would create jobs.
DCP Midstream spokeswoman Roz Elliott said Tuesday, June 19, the balloon test was intended to give a visual indication of not only how tall 137 feet is, but also how a 220-foot-wide tank might look against the skyline.
Thursday morning, vehicles could be seen parked in various locations along Route 1, and at any given time throughout the morning, passersby could be seen getting out of their vehicles to take in the sight and snap a few photos.
The causeway at Sears Island was also a busy place Thursday, as vehicles moved on and off the island at a fairly steady pace. The parking lot at the Maritime Farms Convenience store at the head of Station Avenue was apparently a popular spot for onlookers to park, as an attendant was roaming the lot requesting that those who were not patrons refrain from parking at the store.
And according to company officials, this may not be the last time locals see the balloons floating over Searsport.
In order for the test to be completed, Elloitt said, there are several variables that must be considered in order to get an accurate idea of what the tank would look like. Along with making sure weather conditions are favorable, meaning very little wind and no fog, Elliott said, part of the test includes the use of a high quality digital camera to capture images of the balloons from several viewpoints, and all photos must be snapped at a location of precisely 80 degrees over the horizon to make sure the photos are consistent and offer the most accurate visual possible.
"We'll have people stationed at those key coordinates monitoring the balloons," said Elliott, adding that the whole team remains in close communication throughout the entire exercise.
The test, if all goes as planned, usually lasts between four and six hours. If for some reason there is a need for additional photographs, which Elliott said is not uncommon; there may be more occasions for locals to view the balloons.
"Often we have to come back several times to do this, and it can take up to five times," she said. "... It's a pretty involved exercise."
The results, once the test is completed, will be reported to the Searsport Planning Board, Elliott said.
Anyone who captured photos of the balloons is invited to send their high-resolution images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story will be updated.