PROSPECT — A company that wants to develop a rock-crushing facility on Bowden Point along with a pier for mining operations on Heagan Mountain is facing fierce opposition from one local resident.

Bowden Point LLC, owned by parent company Salmons Inc. of Virginia, proposes to build an 80,000-square-foot rock-crushing facility with about 50 acres of its property to be used for storage and processing, according to an application submitted to the state in December 2021. It also plans to build a T-shaped 710-foot pier on the Penobscot River. The project is expected to cost $12 million.

The company plans to ship crushed rock out of state on ships instead of transporting it by land in trucks, which is why it needs the pier.

The company submitted a Site Location of Development permit application and a Natural Resources Protection Act permit application to the state  at the end of 2021, but the Department of Environmental Protection found both applications had deficiencies that made them unacceptable.

Strong mountain women

Granite has previously been mined on Heagan Mountain on a smaller scale, according to local property owner and project opponent Brandy Bridges. She is concerned that Salmons will extract rock from the mountain for several decades in much larger quantities than during previous mining operations, completely altering the landscape where her family has lived for several generations.

Brandy Bridges’ grandmother Arlene Brown stands on Prospect’s Heagan Mountain in 1943 holding her baby. Courtesy of Brandy Bridges

“I feel a connection to this place my parents, grandparents, their babies, little babies that died back in the ’30s and ’40s from foolish things that we can fix now with an antibiotic,” she said. “So, these little babies died up on that mountain and were buried. That’s my family, you know.”

She said she comes from a long line of strong mountain women who lived and worked at manual labor jobs on the mountain, alongside men. She can trace her family lineage in the area back over 100 years, but thinks it could be traced back further. “Our family’s been here forever, as long as I can remember,” she said.

The company held a public information meeting Feb. 4 as required before it can resubmit applications. The new applications will address the deficiencies outlined by the state. As of Feb. 14 the company had not submitted new applications to the department, according to Deputy Commissioner David Madore. The Bangor office of technical consulting firm Haley Ward is preparing the state applications for the development.

During the roughly hour-long Feb. 4 meeting, several residents asked Haley Ward Project Manager Chip Haskell questions about the project. Some asked whether there had been enough advance notice for the meeting. Haskell assured them that there was no violation of state law regarding legal notice of the meeting.

Some people said abutters to the project received notice only a couple of days before the meeting, while others had to search for the notice in a local newspaper. They said state requirements were violated.

For applicants that are required to hold a public information meeting, notice must be issued by mail to project abutters and the municipal office at least 10 days before the meeting, according to state rules provided to The Republican Journal by Madore through email. Notice must be posted in a local newspaper at least seven days before the meeting.

‘No idea of my determination’

Salmons Inc. bought the Heagan Mountain mine several years ago and discussed the possibility of a development, according to Prospect Planning Board Chairman Kathleen Jenkins. The town has an ordinance requiring a 250-foot natural resource protection setback from the high-water mark along Bowden Point, which means no major developments can be built within that setback.

When it bought the mine, the company asked the town to change the ordinance, which was out of date at the time, so that it could build its development, she said. Residents voted not to reduce the area of that setback at a previous town meeting where an updated ordinance was approved, Jenkins said. Now the company appears to be moving forward with state permits, but has not started seeking local permits.

The company bought the lot where it proposes to build its crushing facility from a member of Bridges’ family, she said. It was formerly a family plot where a relative lived.

Brandy Bridges’ mother, Marilyn Brown, stands on Prospect’s Heagan Mountain in 1955. Courtesy of Brandy Bridges

She has major concerns about how the project will affect the surrounding landscape, wildlife and residents, she said. She also has concerns about previous violations the company has received in Virginia.

In 2006, Salmons Inc. received two fines for dredging violations, according to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. In early 2006 the company over-dredged an area of Crab Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia, adjacent to a boat ramp. The company over-dredged areas of the creek by 1 to 3 feet in what Salmons’ attorney at the time called “an operating error,” according to June 27, 2006, commission meeting minutes.

The over-dredged area is critical habitat for finfish species that could be harmed by the company’s actions, according to the commission meeting minutes, where environmental engineer Justin Worrell presented the case to the commission. The company had to pay a fine of $5,564 for the violation.

The company also had to pay a civil charge of $15,000 for another dredging violation that year associated with a project in Norfolk, Virginia, along the Lafayette River, according to the meeting minutes.

Bridges said she is not intimidated by wealth. She plans to fight the proposed development and mining operation. “James Salmons has absolutely no idea the level of determination that exists in my 120-pound body,” she said. “I only look small, I’m really not. It’s not about money, it’s about our heritage, it’s about my kids having a safe place.”