SEARSPORT — Several cars honked and paradeegoers waved as people held signs along Route 1 during Searsport’s Fling into Fall Oct. 8. They were trying to gather petition signatures for their efforts to keep Sears Island from becoming the location for the state’s proposed deepwater floating offshore wind port.

The state is considering three sites: Mack Point and Sears Island in Searsport and Estes Head in Eastport.

Organizers planned the event at Mermaid Plaza for the day of Fling into Fall to draw in people so they could get more petition signatures and to talk with people about the issue, Friends of Sears Island Vice President Rolf Olsen said. They offered free hot dogs, burgers and live music to entice people to their event.

People hold signs in Searsport Oct. 8 in opposition to the state using Sears Island for its proposed wind port site. Photo by Kendra Caruso

The effort was organized by members of Friends of Sears Island, Sierra Club of Maine and Islesboro Island Institute. As of that day, the organizations have gathered over 400 signatures on an online petition and 300 written signatures, according to Olsen. By that afternoon, a handful of people had trickled in to sign.

Friends of Sears Island President Susan White thinks a wind port on the island would be incompatible with the existing conservation easement. It would completely change the whole atmosphere of the island, she said.

The island has several walkable trails and an intertidal area for visitors to hike. The Friends also host guided hikes for visitors interested in various things on the island like mushrooms, trees, plants, geology and other topics, White said.

She also worries about accessibility issues because people with limited mobility use the paved road, which is closed to motorized traffic, that runs into the island for a more level surface to traverse, she said. If the wind port is built on the island, that road would be opened back up to motorized traffic, she said.

Friends of Sears Island President Susan White talks with people Oct. 8 in Searsport about the state’s consideration of Sears Island for its proposed wind port. Photo by Kendra Caruso

It would require building two parking lots, one for the port and one for the trails, she said. Currently, visitors park along the causeway and walk onto the island between barriers that keep out car and truck traffic.

White is concerned that it could impact the educational programs the group runs on the island. The Friends frequently run programs for local school children. Bangor Area High School students are doing research on vernal pools and green crabs on the island, she said. The island has hosted several other educational programs for different schools in the past.

Nearly half of the bird species recorded in Maine can be found on the island, Olsen said during a Sept. 29 Offshore Wind Port Advisory Committee meeting. It was visited by 34,000 people in 2021.

The state is considering using 100 acres of the island, the part of the island not under a conservation easement, to construct its proposed wind port. It is looking to be one of the leading deepwater floating offshore wind turbine ports in the country — even globally. The state sees a future in this type of wind turbine technology and is trying to beat any possible competition to construction.

In 2007, a steering committee representing local organization, residents and industry leaders met and hashed out an agreement outlining how the island would be used, according to the state’s final report for the Sears Island Planning Initiative Joint Use Planning Committee.

The majority of Sears Island was placed in a conservation easement in 2009, with 601 acres left in conservation and 335 acres set aside for state development, according to the Friends’ website.

The agreement also lays out uses that are not appropriate for the state’s parcel, such as residential development, nuclear power plants, coal-fired power or industrial plants, commercial retail or restaurants, casinos,  chemical manufacturing and soil harvesting, among other prohibitions, according to the final report.

For over 50 years there had been proposals to develop the island for various industries, including an oil refinery, a nuclear power plant, a coal power plant, a new container port and a liquefied natural gas terminal, according to the final report. All such plans fell through primarily because of a lack of public and state support rooted in concerns about the impact on the island and the bay.

Olsen maintains that the agreement limits what the state can develop on that section of the island to a cargo port or container port, he said. He thinks the agreement wording is clear on that. The island has been nicknamed Survivor Island by its supporters because of how many times it was almost developed but remains mostly untouched to this day.

White thinks it makes more sense to build the port at Mack Point, which has been industrialized already. She supports the offshore wind port idea — just not on Sears Island — stating that “it’s a pretty special place.”

Related Headlines