At a packed meeting in Bangor, the Army Corps faced a crowd of fishermen, business people and Midcoast residents who all presented questions and concerns about their proposal to remove more than 900,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of Searsport Harbor.

The proposed dredging project would deepen the channel to 40-feet at low water, widen the channel to 650-feet and add a turning basin in Long Cove. The material removed from the site will be taken to one of three sites off Rockland, Belfast or Islesboro — the Islesboro site has been selected as the prime candidate.

At the meeting the Army Corps did a good job of explaining the process it has gone through to test the material to be removed from Searsport Harbor and determine it was suitable for open-ocean disposal. Their presentation also did well to explain the advances made in dredge-disposal procedures to limit potential damage.

However, many questions remain about the potential harm to the Penobscot Bay fisheries and the need for removing that amount of material from Searsport.

There were many questions posted to the Army Corps representatives at the meeting. Some they answered well, others not-so-well, and others they didn't answer at all.

A question they did not answer well was why Portland, with its much busier harbor, was currently maintained at a depth of 35-feet, when that was being presented as a hindrance to Searsport Harbor?

Their answer: no one asked us to look at Portland.

The way the Army Corps works is it is directed by Congress, which decided to fund a feasibility study for deepening Searsport Harbor. It hasn't funded a similar study for Portland, so the Army Corps hasn't done one.

That answer does not sit well with us, and requires further explanation. If a 35-foot depth is fine for Portland, why is it not OK for Searsport? If ships, which now require increased depth due to double hulls and other features, have to wait to enter Searsport at high tide, is there a similar issue in Portland? Wouldn't deepening Portland provide more economic benefits because it is a more heavily used harbor?

Another question which was barely answered at the meeting was why they would not perform a full Environmental Impact Statement; the basic answer being it is time consuming and costly, and the Corps has already done an Environmental Assessment.

However, that assessment was released in April 2013. It is now 10 months later and a swath of Penobscot Bay in front of the town immediately to the north of Searsport is now off limits to lobster and crab fishing due to unacceptable levels of mercury exposure. While we're sure the Army Corps initial study was accurate, given this new information, is an EIS too much to ask for?

Given the growing size of the lobster haul coming from Penobscot Bay each year, our area has increasingly more to lose from disruption of that fishery.

This leads into one of the last questions asked of the Army Corps of the night: What if you're wrong?

What if you missed something and the spoils are contaminated with mercury or any of the chemicals that were brought in and out of Searsport Harbor over the years? What if it seriously harms this area's fisheries? Who is going to compensate the fisherman for the lost fishing grounds, or the restaurants and hotels that thrive on tourists looking for Maine lobster?

No one from the Army Corps replied to that question, but before this project goes forward they must.