Letters, May 14

May 14, 2020

Save the bats

At the May 6 Belfast Planning Board meeting, Ed Cotter of Nordic Aquafarms said of the woods Nordic wants to clear-cut to build its massive industrial fish factory:

"We assume that all bats species are present and for that reason we have a window that will likely be imposed as a condition to make sure that we remove trees, as I mentioned before, during seasons when the bats are not present."

In other words, it's OK to destroy bats' homes as long as the bats aren't home when you do it. Employing the same logic, one wonders how Nordic employees might feel were they to go to Florida on vacation and come home to destroyed houses.

If you think destroying bat habitat is no big deal, bats are major plant pollinators. Bat Conservation International's website calls bats a "keystone species" and says: "Bats around the world are playing ecological roles that are vital to the health of natural ecosystems and human economies."

I urge readers to visit batcon.org and read more about this remarkable animal that is so important to our environment. And I urge the Planning Board not to brush off concerns about preserving precious and ever-shrinking bat habitat, as Nordic Aquafarms has apparently done. At a minimum, the Planning Board should require an independent bat habitat survey before deciding whether to allow this habitat destruction in order to enrich a foreign corporation and sell luxury foods to high-end consumers.

Lawrence Reichard

Belfast

Teacher Appreciation Week

Under the most normal of times, during National Teacher Appreciation week we would take pause to reflect on the educators of our past and present who have impacted our lives and the lives of our children. These are not normal times. There has been no better time to examine the breadth and depth of our educators’ commitment and impact they impart on the lives of many with the work they do. All our teachers have had to not only find ways to do what they do every day but have had to adjust mode and delivery in how to manage the enormous task of preparing our youth for the next stages in their lives.

Our Early Childhood Program staff and teachers as well as the teachers in our community have supported and provided education to our youth during these unprecedented times. Not only have they continued their ongoing commitment to their students, but they now provide additional support to families assisting with the daunting task of educating our youth from home. I could not be prouder of how all have stepped up to ensure our youth have a strong foundation on which to build.

I have witnessed over the years the commitment of educators and have always been humbled by the care and commitment of all. As the wife of a teacher and the parent of three, I know teachers have been a longstanding part of our lives and have had a profound influence on shaping how my children have grown to be lifelong learners. My daughter was so influenced by the educators in her life that she became a teacher as well and finds great joy working with first graders to build strong foundations in learning.

All teachers at all levels every day remain silent heroes in the lives of many. All are deserving every day of our praise, support and appreciation. Educators not only provide the role of teacher entrusted with the responsibility of educating our future, but they assume many other roles deeply intertwined within the profession — mentor, cheerleader, coach, guidance counselor, support person, resource provider, case manager, and it goes on and on.

This is a time to celebrate all our teachers and we should not lose sight of the true impact, commitment, and importance of these critical staff each day.  On behalf of Waldo Community Action Partners, thank you to all teachers!

Donna Kelley, LCSW

President and CEO, Waldo CAP

Belfast

Support Sen. Collins

With three nurses in our family, the availability of protective equipment for medical providers is a very important topic to me. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has once again led efforts in the Senate to assure that all who are working during the current pandemic have what they need.

This is just the latest leadership role of Sen. Collins that benefits not just Maine but the country, as she is able to work without regard for politics to the good of the many. It should remind us all why we need to keep her strong voice and experience in the Senate.

Faith L. Garrold

Searsport

Trump's flawed leadership

When it finally occurred to Donald Trump that this viral plague was not simply going to disappear miraculously, he decided to declare “war” on the virus. As commander-in-chief he would enlist the governors of the various states as his “generals” to help lead the fight. Trump issued a set of guidelines including staying at home, wearing a mask when out and keeping most businesses closed. His list merely mimicked what most states had already instituted.

To conduct the fight effectively, his “generals” needed supplies like protective gear for medical personnel and testing kits. When they asked Trump for a hand, he gave them the finger, leaving them to compete on the world market for essentials.

As the rate of those infected multiplied and the death rate soared, our “commander” tweeted to guerrilla bands, his most dedicated followers, to liberate their states, to demand an end to the protective measures he himself had proposed. In virtually the same breath he chastised the governor of Georgia for opening most businesses in his state.

Trump is truly a person who is unaware of whether he is on foot or on horseback.

Ron Jarvella

Belfast

Mercury now a 'known-unknown'

On May 7, Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection issued its 16th Procedural Order in the matter of Nordic Aquafarms permit applications, rejecting arguments that the dredging and removal of bay bottom sediments known to contain methylated mercury justify additional precautions.

Robert Duchesne, BEP’s presiding officer, wrote: “Requests to stay proceedings and reopen the record to provide for additional sediment sampling and analysis were previously denied in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Procedural Orders and will not be further revisited.”

In filings prompting the 16th Procedural Order, attorneys for the Maine Lobstermen’s Union and landowners Mabee and Grace argued that Nordic’s new plan for blasting and dredging its proposed pipeline route created a new point-source discharge and raised the problem of controlling mercury-laden deposits known to exist in the area. Two other intervenors expressed similar concerns. BEP stated in its May 7 order that Nordic’s attorney considered those concerns to be “…without merit.”

The May 7 order offered no plan for –- and no commitment to conduct –- a thorough baseline assessment of existing sediment quality. While we all hunker down at home, Nordic wants to bend and narrow the rules to expedite the permits that will lead to the industrialization and pollution of Belfast Bay. How can BEP and DEP determine no contamination will occur if there is no baseline assessment to start with?

Sid Block, President

Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area

DEP: the real experts

Next week, the Maine Bureau of Environmental Protection (BEP) will hold its final deliberations on Nordic Aquafarms. Within Belfast, the debate over Nordic Aquafarms’ suitability has been one of the city’s most contentious disagreements.

For over a year, Nordic and its consultants poured over the proposed site sampling materials, running models, etc. They ultimately submitted a proposal that filled four file boxes.

In June 2019, the BEP convened its review. Among those testifying in favor of Nordic’s application were Gulf of Maine Research Institute, University of New England, multiple scientists with Normandeau Associates, engineers with Ransom Consulting and Cianbro and a few other Maine firms, all with their own area of expertise.

Those ultimately not in favor included Upstream Watch (UW), created shortly after Nordic’s arrival to “provide oversight of the bay” and Northport Village Corp. (NVC) who is worried about environmental and financial effects on Bayside properties.

On Feb. 11, 2020, the BEP held a four-day public hearing where all testimony was presented and cross-examined. Both NVC and UW hinged their arguments on the claim that the Maine DEP was simply not equipped to adequately review the applications so the two groups would “help them.” They claimed that “blasting, noise, odor and air quality issues were too complex to be assessed by the finite resources of the DEP staff.” They argued that Nordic did not provide the exact chemical composition of fish corpses so could not know how to mitigate odor from fish processing.

After raising a few hundred thousand dollars primarily from a handful of Northport residents, the experts NVC and UW used still comprised mostly retired residents of the area, most of whom expressed a dislike of the project from its first announcement. Compared to the dozens of professionals from all over the state and beyond who assessed the project and its potential impacts and found in favor of Nordic as a good addition to the state, I think the writing is on the wall.

Maine is famous for her natural beauty, for clean water and clear air and massive network of wild areas. All that is thanks to the DEP because they are the real experts here and they have done an exceptional job digging deep into Nordic’s applications. We’ll find out on Wednesday if they believe Nordic is worthy of building its business in Maine. I trust their judgment.

Anne Saggese

The Fish Are Okay

Belfast

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