Islesboro Island Trust
September 28, 1995
Colonel Earle Richardson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England Division
424 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA 02254-9149
Attention: Ms. Christine Godfrey
RE: File #1995001408
Dear Colonel Richardson:
I am writing on behalf of the Islesboro Islands Trust (IIT) to urge you to deny the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) application for a permit to build a cargo port at Sears Island in Searsport, Maine and, in so doing, irreparably alter marine and freshwater wetlands. Although we will explain our reasons for requesting denial in detail below, in general, we are convinced, after careful and thorough review, (1) that the cargo port proposal is not justified under the standards of the Clean Water Act, and (2) that the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) is inadequate under the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Before continuing with our more specific concerns, please allow me to briefly introduce IIT and place our request for denial in context. Islesboro Islands Trust is a non-profit, charitable conservation land trust serving the Penobscot Bay community of Islesboro and its surrounding areas. Formed in 1985, IIT now owns five properties (including the 27 acre Turtle Head Environmental Education Sanctuary located just south of Sears Island) and holds eleven conservation easements, effectively protecting more than 400 acres of environmentally valuable island real estate.
Environmental education is a major IIT priority and is represented by an involved partnership with the local school system, water quality monitoring, a summer educational day camp called Island Explorations and other endeavors. However, our organization is highly aware of the need for appropriate economic development and therefore has actively coordinated forest management, softshell clam restoration, and local organic agricultural activities which provide current employment for a number of island residents and even greater hope for the future.
We are asked to advise Eastern Maine Development Corporation because of our long term interest in sustainable economic development and local success in fostering such activity. We also assist the Maine Department of Marine Resource in their efforts to reopen clam flats.
The Trustees of IIT voted unanimously in 1988 to publicly express our opposition to the development of a cargo port on Sears Island for both ecological and economic reasons. We willingly sat on the MDOT Sears Island Management Advisory Committee under the stated impression that the committee's deliberations would not be used in their mitigation plans (although, as you well know, this is exactly what has come to pass). We have also met with MDOT
P.O.Box 182 . Islesboro, Maine 04848 • Tel: 207-734-6907 . Fax:207-734-6747
Commissioner John Melrose in hopes of convincing him that serious flaws in the Sears Island plans call for a significant reassessment of the whole concept.
In short, then, IIT is a charitable conservation organization created to benefit the general public. We are long on integrated ecological economics, short on environmental ignorance and abuse, and more than willing to discuss rational sustainable development. Our analysis of the MDOT permit request includes reading most (although we regret not having been given enough time to read all) of the DSEIS; some of the supporting documents, such as "Distribution ofEelgrass in Penobscot Bay, Maine" by Salmon Falls Research Associates, Inc. and "Analysis of the Primary, Secondary and Cumulative Socio-Economic Impacts Associated with the Development of the Sears Island Dry Cargo Terminal," both in pre-publication agency draft form dated December 16, 1994, and final form dated May, 1995, by RKG Associates, Inc.; the Sears Island Management Advisory Committee material provided by MDOT; "Review of Alternatives Report (Alternatives Analysis) and Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) for Marine Dry Cargo Terminal, Searsport, Maine" by Kimball Chase Company, Inc.; as well as other associated material.
Is the Sears Island Cargo Port Necessary?
MDOT and its consultants have repeatedly stated that the purpose of the proposed Sears Island port is, in the words of FXM Associates in their pre-publication agency comment draft Socioeconomic Impact Study at page 1, "...to generate quality employment opportunities in Waldo County ... [and to] enhance the economic competitiveness of central Maine industries ... by providing additional employment in a region of the state where chronic unemployment is a major problem." In the RKG Associates, Inc. report, "Analysis of the ... Socio-Economic Impacts..." at page 4 we learn that the port is proposed for "...both economic and public policy reasons." The Sears Island Cargo Port proposal is essentially an economic development scheme intended to benefit Waldo County and its northern hinterland.
However, even though the supporting documentation in the DSEIS makes a strong case for the economic need of the region, there is no evidence or substantiation of the claim that the proposal will effectively achieve its broad economic development purpose. Further, there is no evidence in the DSEIS that alternative economic development strategies have been considered or compared to the proposal. The limited job creation projected for the proposed action and devastating environmental costs beg for comparison with alternative economic development strategies. Also, there is no data to substantiate the claim made by RKG Associates that existing and past public and private actions have been unable to generate quality employment opportunities in Waldo County. In fact, according to information provided by Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC), "investments in small businesses cited above (for Waldo County) have resulted in the retention or creation of 775 jobs since 1990" Also, recent figures for Waldo county show unemployment down. This strongly suggests that alternative economic development strategies for the region could be expected to produce far greater results, with fewer environmental and economic risks, than construction of the terminal.
The proposed action is said to be consistent with State of Maine policies. Exhibit A following page 1-1 of the DSEIS is cited as the basis of the policy consistency claim. Yet that policy contains two very important things in paragraph six. First, that funds for ports will be spent "... on a priority basis..." and second, that such expenditures will be "... in accordance with
principles of sound business practice and land use." MDOT has failed to prioritize its projected transportation budget. Their 20 Year Report shows a $1.4 billion shortage of transportation funds but no prioritization. Also, as additional testimony you have received from Nigel MacEwan and Abigail MacMillan will attest, sound business practices have not been used in the economic analysis of this proposal. Not only has no cost-benefit analysis for the project been undertaken (a very common business practice), a preliminary analysis by MacEwan shows an annual net deficit to the State of Maine of $4 million, a net operating scenario no sound business would even begin to consider. Further, there is significant evidence that sound land use practices have not been applied.
But perhaps even more troubling is the DSEIS's use of an out-dated 1983 policy. In a more current statement of Maine economic policy contained in the first report of the Maine Economic Growth Council of April, 1995, sustainable development principles are indicated to be of utmost importance in all economic development programs. In particular, that report says, "We must invest and act now in such a way to assure the prosperity of the current generation without sacrificing the opportunities for future generations.
Above all, this means paying close attention to how we use the environment and natural resources." It is clear from the record that MDOT has failed to address these considerations in their analysis of the proposed action. In no place is there evidence of consideration of sustainable development principles such as,"... to minimize habitat destruction and to encourage endeavors to restore, enhance, rehabilitate and reclaim natural systems.."
The limited MDOT market demand analysis contained in the DSEIS includes the movement of 600,000 tons ofwoodchips in the base year. The potential effects on Maine's forest future of harvesting and or diverting this substantial amount of timber product are ignored in the DSEIS. This is unacceptable and alone reason to rule the DSEIS inadequate. Can the proposed Sears Island cargo port, which depends almost completely on the projected wood chip business as its reason for being, compete with other ports?
109,600 tons of new breakbulk and containerized cargo are projected to be exported at Sears Island. In 1993 Mack Point exported 70,000 tons of breakbulk cargo. If the woodchip venture is proven uneconomical or unsustainable or otherwise not in the best long term interest of the State of Maine, then building the Sears Island cargo port at a cost of between $52.8 and $86.4 million to ship only 39,600 more tons of breakbulk than Mack Point exported last year suggests that a better use of public funds might be to make improvements to Mack Point and/or other transportation modes and centers.
Where are contracts supporting use of the port? Where have they been these past 12 years of negotiation?
The Sears Island Cargo Port would be a sustainable development if. (a) does not degrade environment, including resources currently being utilized (such as scenic resources), (b) encourages and supports other sustainable economic activity and avoids or discourages nonsustainable activity (such as chip or whole tree export and whole tree import), (c) recognizes intergenerational needs and accommodates the future, and (d) promotes equity in opportunity and human development.
Significant Environmental Impacts
The 940 upland acres, of which about one quarter are freshwater wetlands, support an incredible diversity of cover types including hardwoods, fem meadows, old fields, shrub and scrub. There are nine species of amphibians and reptiles, 168 species of birds, mammals from bear and
raccoon to seals and shrews. The five miles of Sears Island coast line include salt marsh, rocky intertidal, sand beaches, eelgrass beds, and clam flats. The ecological diversity, measure for measure, puts Sears Island into a rare class.
Penobscot Bay, in fact New England, has certainly not seen a proposal to alter the natural environment as dramatic and extensive as the Sears Island port proposal in more than ten years. The loss of softshell clam flats caused by the construction of the causeway, alone, is reason to deny this permit.
The mitigation plan for those losses has failed and the causeway was built without culverts as initially planned. This complete and utter failure by MDOT to address critical environmental issues associated with the prior action only intensifies the need to deny the current permit.
Other significant ecological costs include expected losses in local and regional biodiversity, eelgrass losses and losses to productivity of eelgrass beds, freshwater wetlands and their habitat value, even aesthetic environmental values.
As Salmon Falls Research Associates point out in their supporting document to the DSEIS, "Distribution of Eelgrass in Penobscot Bay, Maine," The ecological significance of the eelgrass resource to the Penobscot Bay region is great." The DSEIS claim, at page 3-56, that former levels of apparently high concentrations of eelgrass "indicate how eelgrass coverage can change regionally from year to year" is, in fact, not supported by their consultant's findings. The Salmon Falls report says, "... the validity of these [earlier] eelgrass maps is difficult to determine." Less than 2% of the shoreline was field checked in one study (Tucker 1991) and the other (Timson 1976) was done exclusively from aerial photographs. There are far too many of these kinds of unsubstantiated statements made by MDOT in the DSEIS.
The visual resource to be damaged by the proposed action was not adequately reviewed in the DSEIS. The number of viewers from Sprague's Beach on Islesboro, alone, was under estimated by several hundred annually. But much more importantly was the complete lack of consideration of the visual resource from the public marine waters of Penobscot Bay. Thousands of boats, including fishing and lobster boats, motor craft, sailing vessels, and various others, cruise the waters of Penobscot Bay each year. Recreational boating alone has been said to contribute $21 million in direct economic activity and $40 million in indirect and induced effects for the Penobscot Bay region (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1994).
The noise level at the terminal site will be 98 db at peak operating times and will average 66 dB. Noise levels three-quarters of a mile away will be 60 dB at peak operating times. In addition, daily vehicular traffic to and from the terminal will generate noise levels of 70 dB within 35 feet of either side of the access road. Heavy trucks will produce 90 dB 50 feet on either side of the road. Freight by rail will result in 80 to 94 dB levels 50 feet from the railroad. These noise levels will impact humans and wildlife on Sears Island as well as on and in the surrounding water and land.
Because the proposed Sears Island cargo port must operate 24 hours a day during loading and offloading, light pollution will interfere with the ability to see stars at night throughout the upper bay region (an amenity thought to be nearly nonexistent along the entire east coast). DOT estimates 1.5 days per vessel docking time and 2 vessels per week all year long. The port will operate 7 days per week.
Sediments in Long Cove, the tidal waters at the northwest side of Sears where the port is proposed, have been found to be highly contaminated with the known carcinogens PCBs and PAHs. These toxic substances need to be cleaned from the environment, their sources determine and steps taken to avoid recontamination, before any further commercial or industrial development of the
uncontaminated... PAH levels in Penobscot Bay sediments compare with those of industrialized regions... The effects on the marine environment, and on man, of chronic exposure to these known carcinogens and mutagens could be significant and should be evaluated."
2. Bigelow Lab also found so-called heavy metal concentrations in Pen Bay sediments to be "elevated well above presumed pre-industrial levels. Mean values of Cr, Cu and Pb are comparable to levels reported from other industrialized New England area, while Nickel and Zinc levels are the highest yet reported."
3. Dioxin contamination of Pen Bay lobsters has been so high that we are cautioned not to eat the tomalley, where carcinogens accumulate.
4. Fecal coliform contamination of shellfish flats in Penobscot Bay has, sadly, become almost legend. According to Paul Anderson ofDMR, "A majority of the coastal shores along Penobscot Bay are classified prohibited to the harvesting of shellfish." Ten years ago, Islesboro was producing an annual sustainable softshell clam yield of more than 2,600 bushels that represented, in 1995 dollars, income of at least $170,000 a year. Today there is zero income from Islesboro clam flats.
5. Everard Dodge, an Islesboro fisher whose father was a fisher and whose grandfather was a fisher, can remember catching cod, sculpin, pollack, cunner (or rock bass) and flounder regularly right around Islesboro. Today there are just a few flounder and none of the others. The problems are out there and we do not know how to deal with them. We are not willing to lose acres of eelgrass beds that function as nursery to finfish, remove clam flats that might some day be brought back to clam production, fill freshwater wetlands that provide various benefits, lose part of our local biodiversity, commit irreversible changes in the Sears Island marine and upland ecosystems, and suffer the threat of other potential environmental hazards posed by the Sears Island port.
The various ecological functions which Sears Island, the largest uninhabited island on the coast of Maine, provides are extensive and their values must be considered a cost of this proposal. Sears Island represents real or potential value in its presently undeveloped state for the following reasons: fishing, pollution absorption, photosynthesis, hydrogeological cycles, decomposition, air flow, recreation, scientific, genetic diversity, aesthetic, cultural symbolism, historical, character building opportunities, therapeutic, religious, and intrinsic value. For a thorough discussion of the economic significance of these functions and methods used to calculate or estimate their values, see the enclosed reports, "Economic Vales of Open Space" and "Values of Open Space," which should be considered a part of this letter.
The draft MDOT 20 Year Statewide Transportation Plan describes a $1.428 billion shortfall in transportation funding over the next 20 years. That is an annual shortfall of some $71 million! Therefore, the question must be asked, is the Sears Island Port the best place to spend something like $6 million annually when the source of funds is so limited and the range of needs so great?
1. Given budget constraints, a prudent businessman would look to remedy the inefficiency of the current system (Mack Point) before investing in totally new infrastructure costs.
2. Would Sears Island's port, as presently portrayed, further intermodal transportation goals? This new port has been projected to export approximately 133,800 tons ofbreakbulk and containerized cargo and 670,100 tons ofwoodchips annually. Woodchips, therefore, represent a majority portion of the cargo. Yet MDOT consultant Lloyd Irland tells us in his report that he has paid "closest attention to the region expected to serve Searsport by truck, because that region will have the lowest freight costs." Therefore, more. not fewer, trucks will be on Maine roads given the current Sears Island port proposal.
3. Perhaps even more amazingly, the paper industry, seen as the business sector most likely to benefit from the Sears Island port, recently released a report by the Commission to Study the Future of Maine's Paper Industry which says, "While the industry is critically dependent on an integrated transportation network to become and remain competitive, freight rail is identified as the transportation mode most critical to the industry and most in need of improvement." (emphasis mine)
4. Further, FXM Associates, consultants to MDOT, in their evaluation of the Searsport road and traffic conditions, say, "Route 1 leading to Bar Harbor is a 'nightmare' in summer. In addition, the quality of some roads is less than adequate because of limited funds for repaying." 5. What happens on roads when traffic doubles? More accidents, more police surveillance, more emergency preparedness required. Increased vessel traffic in the Bay means increases in the likelihood of accidents. This means increased enforcement and safety related costs. And the problem would be further aggravated by having two ports (Mack Point and Sears Island) located so closely together.
Impacts and Alternatives The DSEIS fails to consider the likely negative impacts on the Penobscot Bay regional tourist and second home economy. The Maine State Planning Office has estimated that tourists spent more than $210 million in the Penobscot Bay region in 1990, a 220% increase since 1982. It has been said that this increase due to "... its rural character and strong fishing tradition..."
The DSEIS also fails to demonstrate that alternative sites were given serious consideration. There is no evidence that the owners of businesses at Mack Point (Irving Oil, Sprague Energy, and Bangor Investment Corporation) were ever asked to participate in meaningful discussion of port futures. There is also conflicting evidence as to the ability of Mack Point to absorb additional port activity, making the need to investigate this possibility ever greater. In fact, Sprague Energy recently announced plans to expand its dry cargo export operation, making suspect claims by MDOT that Mack Point is not viable.
Given public funding, investment must be compared to alternatives such as small scale business opportunities in forest management, saw mills, forest products manufacturing, aquaculture, local agriculture (Coleman 4-season, sheep and yam knits, specialty niche), local breweries and vineyards, service sector (computer, MBNA), limited development (retirees, summer uses), retiree support services (health, hoAe care), limited green tourism (trails, parks, boating), and similar opportunities. Infrastructure investment alternatives might include upgrades to Maine's rail system.
According to a newspaper reporter who attended the entire Sears Island hearing last Tuesday, September 12, from 1 to 5 and from 7 to approximately 12:30 mid-night, 106 people testified. Of those, 63 were opposed to building a cargo port at Sears Island while the other 43 were in favor of the port proposal.
Of the 63 opponents to speak, seven were Maine state legislators. They were Senator Ann Rand, and Representatives Paul Volenik, Randall Berry, Conrad Heeschen, Roland Samson, Ida Luther, and Patricia Lemaire. One municipality opposes the port and was represented at the hearing by Prospect Selectman John Hyk.
Organizations opposed to the port include the Conservation Law Foundation, Coalition for Sensible Energy, Coastal Waters Project, Friends of the Maine Woods, Maine Greens, Friends of Nature, Islesboro Islands Trust, Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine League of Women's Voters, Maine People's Alliance, National Marine, Fisheries Service, Native Forest Network, New England Environmental Voters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, United Papermakers Union, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Maine's AFL-CIO chief Charlie O'Leary has publicly opposed the export ofwoodchips.
Others speaking in concern or opposition to the port were the Island Institute's Philip Conkling, RTAC 7, foresters, small businesspeople and concerned taxpayers.
Of the 43 speakers in support of the port, at least 20 were elected officials. It seems clear they are sadly out of touch with the electorate.
Although one assumes you already know the above information, it seems important to include some statement here of the apparently overwhelming opposition to the port which has, in the past few months, only now become apparent. Since the hearing I have received calls from a publishing company owner in Farmington, a Radcliffe graduate from Camden and a fisherman's wife from Deer Isle, all good, honest, hard working Maine residents and all wanting to know how they can express their opposition to the proposed action.
Thank you for representing the American public in its interest in a healthy future. Please deny this permit application.
Stephen Miller Executive Director
cc: Brian Nutter, MDOT, John DeVillars, EPA, Senator Olympia Snowe Senator William Cohen, Governor Angus King