Eighth town agrees to support EIS for Searsport dredging

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Feb 12, 2014
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Archibald Gillies, chairman of Islesboro's Board of Selectmen, spoke at the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen's meeting Monday, Feb. 10. He is shown here addressing Searsport officials in 2012.

Lincolnville — Selectmen voted to write a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Corps' proposal for dredging at Mack Point, removing around 1 million cubic yards of material from Searsport harbor.

The letter was requested by Archibald Gillies, chairman of the Islesboro Board of Selectmen, and Steve Miller, executive director of the Islesboro Island Trust, who appeared at the Monday, Feb. 10, meeting in Lincolnville.

Gillies reminded selectmen the dredging plan was announced by the Corps and the Maine Department of Transportation last spring. He added he had been told by the Corps that the dredge material would be dumped in Penobscot Bay, either off Islesboro or between Rockland and North Haven.

He said his town had written to the Corps to ask for an EIS, and he and Miller have spent the last six months talking to state legislators, officials of other towns and representatives of affected organizations such as area lobster councils to ask them to write letters as well. To date, 32 legislators, seven towns and the lobster councils for zones C and D have written letters, Gillies said. He added that he had been told that the letters were important in getting an EIS.

Miller said so far, a draft Environmental Assessment has been done by the Army Corps. It was issued with the Corps' feasibility report on the project in April 2013. He spoke about some of the reasons Islesboro residents want the EIS, a more rigorous study, done.

He said the land trust is concerned the proposed project, which would be “the largest dredging operation in the history of Penobscot Bay,” could disturb the lobster fishery for years to come, and possibly destroy it altogether. Miller said economic analysis done to date was inadequate, another reason the EIS was needed.

Portland harbor is in the process of doing a maintenance dredge down to 35 feet, he said, yet the Corps wants to go to 40 feet at Searsport, a depth he said was considerably more than necessary. He added that the Corps' own assessment says the extent of dredging proposed is not required for continued operations at Mack Point.

Selectman Rosey Gerry said he had been told by people involved with the project that fuel tankers had to enter the port with less than a full load because the current depth of 35 feet was inadequate. Miller replied that similar tankers go into the 35-foot port at South Portland fully loaded.

Miller also said the amount of time required for the EIS would depend on how many questions the parties involved decide must be answered, but he estimated it would take around two years.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Elizabeth Kay Gibson | Feb 13, 2014 07:13

You are correct to ask for an in-depth and impartial Environmental Impact Statement BEFORE the first bucket of dredge spoil comes off the bottom.  Anyone who will be dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers should read THE SWAMP which is a critical examination of the mess the Corps made of Central Florida including the critical Everglades.  The folly that resulted from the actions of the Corps, which was heavily impacted by lobbying from the big-bucks sugar industry,  is now years later having a severe impact on the Indian River Lagoon, a critical habitat and nursery for hundreds of species including manatees, turtles, dolphins, and dozens of varieties of fish.   All of these species are suffering die-offs and in certain areas of the Lagoon fishermen are warned not to even touch their catches, let alone eat them.  Keep up the pressure.   It would be unthinkable for Central Maine and Penobscot Bay to suffer in the same way that Central Florida is suffering from the decisions made years ago by the heavy handed, bought and paid for Army Corps of Engineers.

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Sarah Reynolds
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
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Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.

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