Corps of Engineers to hold public meeting in Belfast on Searsport Harbor dredging proposalLobstering Union votes to oppose dredging
Belfast — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, and the Maine Department of Transportation will hold a Water Quality Certification pre-application public information meeting March 26 in Belfast on the proposal for maintenance and improvement dredging of the Searsport Harbor Federal Navigation Project in Searsport.
According to a press release from the Army Corps, the purpose of meeting is to inform the public of the project proposal and its anticipated environmental impacts and to advise the public of opportunities for public comment to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. A similar meeting was held Feb. 24 in Bangor.
Tim Dugan, a spokesperson for the Army Corps, said this second meeting is in response to public pressure to hold a meeting closer to Searsport, where more local people could attend. Dugan said some residents of Islesboro were unable to make the last meeting in Bangor due to the ferry schedule. He said the Belfast location was chosen to make it easier for them to attend.
"There was strong interest from some folks that there should have been a meeting closer to the project site," Dugan said. "Since there was so much interest we decided to hold another meeting."
The meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 26, at the University of Maine, Hutchinson Center, at 80 Belmont Avenue in Belfast. Doors will open at noon and the meeting will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Maine Lobstering Union — Local 207 met March 9 and its members voted unanimously to oppose dredging Searsport's federal navigation project channel, and oppose the dumping of any Searsport Harbor dredge spoils — whether from maintenance or expansion dredging — in any Penobscot Bay dumpsite.
The Lobstering Union is asking citizens who attend the March 26 meeting to wear red shirts in support of the lobster industry.
The presentation from the Army Corpps will be very similar to what was presented in Bangor, Dugan said, and the public will again be given time to comment or ask questions about the project.
In response to a resolution of Congress dated July 26, 2000, the USACE New England District in partnership with the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Port Authority, undertook a feasibility study of navigation improvements to the existing Federal Navigation Project at Searsport Harbor.
The project would deepen the existing entrance channel and turning basin from a depth of -35 feet to -40 feet at mean lower low water. In addition, the entrance channel, currently 500 feet wide at its narrowest point, would be widened to 650 feet, and a maneuvering area adjacent to State Pier's east berth in Long Cove would be created. Dredged material would be disposed of at the identified disposal site in Penobscot Bay off Islesboro. With the proposed project, deep draft vessels would be able to access the port more efficiently, and transportation costs for goods arriving at the port would be reduced, according to information presented by the Army Corps.