Money to bail out USA Springs still has not arrived, forcing creditors to consider alternatives, including liquidation and foreclosure.
Malom Group AG — the bankrupt company’s Swiss financier – was supposed to deposit $7 million on Dec. 9 into the account of USA Springs, which is trying to build a controversial bottling plant near the border of Nottingham and Barrington.
The payment was supposed to be the first installment of a $19.3 million bridge loan as part of a $60 million financing deal.
But USA Springs told the court on Dec. 15 that the money hadn’t arrived, making it Malom’s fourth missed deadline since Oct. 3.
Attorneys for USA Springs asked for a new deadline of Jan. 6, and the judge agreed to the extension, which is the fifth since the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2008.
A hearing on other issues — such as attorneys’ compensation — was set for Jan. 26.
An unnamed insider investor, with the bankruptcy court’s protection, has paid Malom a $1.2 million loan fee, a fee that was supposed to be paid back at closing, along with a potential $600,000 success fee.
If Malom doesn’t come through with the initial financing, the bankruptcy court – in its order – said it would seek the full $60 million from the firm.
Jan. 26 will also be set aside for consideration of a motion filed by Save Our Groundwater, an organization that opposes the USA Springs proposal and is seeking more documents on the redacted agreement between Malom.
USA Springs has spent $17 million over the past decade trying to get a permit to withdraw 300,000 gallons a day from the groundwater in the face of tenacious opposition from SOG and other opponents.
But shortly after the state granted the major permits, the company ran out of money, and the half-finished project has languished ever since. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
Barely a month after public outcry over news that a proposed ban on sales of disposable plastic water bottles in Grand Canyon National Park had been abruptly shelved following concerns by parks donor Coca-Cola, the ban is moving forward and could take effect in early 2012.
A National Park Service directive , issued Wednesday, will let parks halt plastic water bottle sales as long as a regional director signs off on a “rigorous impact analysis” of such factors as cost to concessionaires, signage directing visitors to filling stations, and the health implications of thirsty tourists who might drink from “surface water sources with potential exposure to disease.”
The new directive, which is part of a larger Green Parks Plan expected next year, follows speculation that a Grand Canyon ban scheduled to start Jan. 1, 2011, was put on hold after Coca-Cola officials raised concerns through the National Park Foundation. Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand, has donated more than $13 million to the parks.
Grand Canyon had been following the example of Utah’s Zion National Park, which launched a similar program in 2008, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which offers water stations and encourages visitors to bring their own bottles or buy a stainless steel reusable bottle at the Kilauea Visitors Center.
Discarded plastic bottles account for about 30% of the Grand Canyon’s total waste stream, according to an earlier park service estimate, and a park official said bottles are the single biggest source of trash found inside the canyon.
Park service spokesman David Barna said recycling or eliminating plastic bottles is just one element of the service’s broad environmental plan. But nearly 100,000 people have joined a Change.org campaign asking the service to go ahead with the bottle ban, and the organization took issue with latest directive.
“While it is commendable that the National Park Service has decided not to completely kow to Coca-Cola on a plastic bottle ban, the new policy is still troubling,” said petition organizer StivWilson in a prepared statement. ” If the barriers to implementation of bottle bans are too cost-prohibitive or onerous for the superintendents to act, then we’ve only witnessed a bait and switch.”
Grand Canyon spokeswoman Shannan Marcak said that after a “thorough review” and following the steps required by the new directive, a ban could be implemented by spring of 2012.
She noted that the park has already installed seven free water supply stations on the South Rim and three on the North Rim, and that three park concessionaires — Delaware North, ForeveverResorts and Xanterra — have either provided new filling stations or refitted existing water fountains at most of their facilities.
Update 12-16-11:A nonprofit transportation research group out of Washington D.C., TRIP, released a statement identifying “Maine’s 50 most needed transportation projects for economic growth.” #3 was the construction of a new east-west highway. TRIP is sponsored by “construction businesses, insurance companies, equipment makers, labor unions and other transportation-related organizations.” We believe TRIP’s role is to encourage private funding of the study, since funding from Maine taxpayers would be highly controversial, as we face severe cuts on social services. Chris
Update 12-12-11: This letter is the link between Vigue / Cianbro, Mobilize Eastern Maine / Eastern Maine Development Corporation / the Action Committee of 50, and LR2358…!
Brief summary: Cianbro doesn’t have the money for the feasibility study, and as part of this business group, wrote a letter to Legislators asking for an emergency bill (LR2358) to support funding. Senator Thomas had sponsored a bill to approve funding earlier that was voted down 2-8. This letter from EMDC was an appeal to reconsider. Thomas then sponsored the emergency bill and it passed 10-0.
Although Thomas is still encouraging all private funding of the project, LePage said that there may be money in the Maine Turnpike Authority Fund. To take taxpayer money at the same time as proposing huge cuts to social programming seems absurd. Chris
Lisa Savage wrote the following letter to the Transportation Committee, and copied her representatives. This is a great sample!
Honorable Members of the Transportation Committee:
It has come to my attention that LR 2358 is being rushed through the committee process in the legislature which has sworn to represent the interests of the people, not the corporations, of Maine. Such a road has been under discussion for 20 years. At this juncture, the “emergency” seems to be that the Cianbro Corporation wants to move ahead with studies for a project that could prove immensely profitable to them.
One of the most compelling arguments against passing emergency legislation is that such a timetable will not take into account potential environmental impacts of this highway, particularly impacts to Maine’s water and forests. As a native of the state of Maine who has been around long enough to note the effects of continual erosion of our natural resources — at very little economic benefit to the people, I might add — I caution you about heading down this destructive path with haste.
An additional matter that resonates with the fast growing movement of Occupy Wall St.’s 99%, a feasibility study of the East-West highway as a private toll road should not be funded by potential investors. It is unethical to have an investor-funded study of a project that benefits investors. Any study must be unbiased.
This bill is being rushed through to serve the interests of Cianbro, a private corporation, and Canadian businesses looking to cut transportation costs, without looking at the public interest of all Mainers. Will the cutting down of our forests, the selling of our water, and being a transport throughway be in the best interest of Maine residents now and in the future?
I would appreciate a communication from you indicating what you plan to do about LD 2358; and I have copied my own representative and senator on this message so that they will be aware of this important issue..
LR 2358, An Act To Provide Funding to the Department of Transportation for a Feasibility Study for an East-West Highway, has been given the green light for consideration this session.
The idea of a Maine East-West highway has been kicked around the Maine Legislature since 1981. However, public and/or private funding has never been provided to study the feasibility of such a highway or to finance its construction.
Canadian businesses want an East-West highway to move goods more cheaply from inland Canada to its eastern provinces and to a proposed Super-Port at Halifax, Nova Scotia, for export. Maine would be used as a throughway. But the highway could also accelerate the exploitation of Maine’s natural resources. Of particular concern to Defending Water in Maine, is the likelihood that the highway would make it economical for giant corporations to profit from cutting down Maine’s forests to supply wood chips to Europe as “green energy” and from exporting Maine’s water in bulk and in bottles to global markets.
Defending Water in Maine and others ask: How will increased truck traffic crossing the state benefit the people of Maine? Simply, it will not. But, it will benefit transnational corporations like Nestlé which can profit from using the highway to exploit and export Maine’s water to sell it around the world.
Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, Maine’s largest construction firm, has reignited conversations among business leaders about the East-West highway. The last time Vigue was vocal about the project was in 2007, when he proposed the private toll road from Coburn Gore to Calais. Vigue again is promoting the highway to be built on private land with other business leaders and with state legislators. Cianbro is poised to profit considerably, as the owner of this toll road.
Plans to construct the road are well developed. Cianbro has already identified a route, and contacted major landowners; however, Cianbro has yet to make public the route they are pursuing. See our website for a map of the most likely route http://defendingwater.net/maine/maine-east-west-highway-map/
Key business leaders appear unified, and are organizing influence.
Eastern Maine Development Corporation has formed Mobilize Eastern Maine, a new business leader group to promote economic development. They appear to be networking with community college educators. For instance, Washington County Community College (WCCC) is starting a new international commerce business program, stating that they anticipate the East-West highway and increased business at the ports.
LR 2358was just unanimously moved forward for consideration as an emergency bill by the Legislative Council for the upcoming second legislative session.
In 2007, Vigue said that, except for river crossings and connecting to the interstate, Cianbro didn’t need to go to the government for permitting, since this would all be privately funded on private land.
However, Senator Doug Thomas just sponsored a bill for a feasibility study. The bill summary states it, “would provide funding for an independent, investment-grade feasibility study to determine the need for and location of an east-west highway in Maine.” Bill sponsor, Senator Doug Thomas, said that, “a surprising amount of work has been done,” that this project is “doable”, and that this would be a boost to the Maine economy. (video of Thomas’s testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzan7GYQSBI)
Join our east-west highway watch group. We will maintain a separate list of people who want more information on the development of this threat so we can continue to update you and network without burdening everyone on our listserv.
Identify Landowners. If you or someone you know has been approached about the highway running through their land, let us know! In the near future, we will be organizing to canvass the area as well and will need your help.
Contact your Local Representative and Senators, and the Members of the Transportation Committee re LR 2358. Some talking points:
There is no reason for this to be considered as an emergency bill. Even Rep. Thomas admits that this has been under discussion for 20 years. The “emergency” seems to be that Cianbro wants to move ahead.
Emergency legislation will not take into account potential environmental impacts of this highway, particularly impacts to Maine’s water and forests.
A feasibility study of the East-West highway as a private toll road should not be funded by potential investors. It is unethical to have an investor-funded study of a project that benefits investors. Any study must be unbiased, because we are confident that an East-West highway will not benefit Maine people, or the environment.
This bill is being rushed through to serve the interests of Cianbro, a private corporation, and Canadian businesses looking to cut transportation costs, without looking at the public interest of all Mainers. Will the cutting down of our forests, the selling of our water, and being a transport throughway be in the best interest of Maine residents now and in the future?
US and Canadian Indigenous Peoples United To Stop Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Monday, December 5, 2011
Washington DC-A delegation of US Tribal leaders gathered together in Washington DC, during the third annual White House Tribal Leaders Summit to call on President Obama to reject a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The leaders presented President Obama with the “Mother Earth Accord” that outlines unique US Tribal and First Nations concerns over Keystone XL, Alberta Tar Sands, the heavy haul in Idaho and Montana, and presented a copy of the Academy Award Nominated Documentary film called “Pipe Dreams”
The 1,700-mile proposed Transcanada Keystone XL pipeline has been mired in controversy since its inception and poses a significant threat to tribal water quality, public health, and cultural heritage in both the United States and Canada. In Alberta, extraction of tar sands oil has already been linked to a 30% elevated rate of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases in First Nations communities downstream from the project.
President Steele of Oglala Sioux Nation stated, “I will stand against the Keystone XL pipeline as long as it threatens to contaminate the Mni Wiconi water pipeline and threatens the clean drinking water and health of the Oglala people.
The Mother Earth Accord, developed this past September at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Emergency Summit, demonstrates the unity among the Tribes on both side of the border and the State Department’s failure hold meaningful consultations with US tribes and treaty rights violations. Over twenty Canadian First Nations and US Tribes, as well as private landowners, private citizens, environmental NGO’s, Indigenous peoples organizations and political parties including the New Democratic Party of Canada, the official opposition of the federal Canadian Government, have endorsed it.
According to Chairman Rodney Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Nation, ”I sat next to President Obama, and I asked him to not sign the Presidential Permit, and I feel that he listened to my concerns seriously. I stand with my brothers and sisters on both sides of the border in opposition to this proposed pipeline.”
“While we applaud President Obama’s reaction to the concerns of Tribes, land owners and civil society we are still greatly concerned that the administration has only delayed the decision. We have supported this bi-national delegation of First Nations and Tribal leaders to come to Washington DC to tell President Obama an outright denial of the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline is the moral path forward.” Said Marty Cobenais, US Pipeline Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The Indigenous Environmental Network and our allies will continue to support the leadership and grassroots members of First Nations and US Tribes in their opposition Keystone XL and other initiatives that would violate the treaty rights and the human and ecological health of our peoples, lands and way of life.
from New Hampshire Business Review: December 7, 2011
For the third time in as many months, the bankrupt USA Springs has been unable to close on a $60 million loan because initial funding from its Swiss underwriter, Malom Group AG, still has not arrived.
The deal, which would enable the company to resume construction on its controversial partially completed bottling plant on the border of Nottingham and Barrington, was originally supposed to close on Oct. 3, with the arrival of $19.3 million bridge loan in the bank account controlled by USA Springs’ attorney.
But that deadline was extended twice until Dec. 2 because of financial turmoil in Europe, according to Malom. In November, Malom said it would rely on the sale of Brazilian securities to raise that initial bridge loan.
At Monday’s bankruptcy court hearing in Manchester, attorneys for USA Springs said Malom missed that deadline as well because it found “a better offer” elsewhere, and instead $7 million would arrive at the close of business Friday. The rest of the bridge loan would arrive by the end of the year, the company said.
“We want to make sure that Malom is true to its word,” said the company’s attorney, Alan L. Braunstein.
Malom received a $1.2 million loan fee in advance from an unnamed USA insider. That fee would be paid back at closing along with a potential $600,000 success fee
Braunstein said that Malom would pay extra interest and attorney’s fees for the delay, but the main creditor, Roswell Commercial Mortgage LLC, wanted to see any changes in writing and subpoenaed a Malom executive for a deposition.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge J. Michael Deasy granted another extension of the deal.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the parties to decide what they want to do, but at some point this thing has to go or not to go. I don’t know what time that is,” said Deasy.
But the judge added that Roswell and other creditors were understandably skeptical and that the whole bankruptcy rescue plan was in danger of “blowing up.”
The future of the USA Springs plant has never been certain. USA Springs has spent $17 million to build the plant since 1997, but it took nearly a decade to overcome the opposition of residents and environmental groups before the company finally obtained state and federal permits.
State regulators eventually sided with USA Springs, but the permit fight drained its resources and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The project has languished in bankruptcy ever since, after several other financial arrangements fell apart. Malom has been the most promising deal thus far.
Meanwhile, opponents have raised question with potential investors about to whether the permits were still valid — a claim that USA Springs cited as a reason to keep the names of the investors secret.
But the organization Save Our Groundwater filed a motion to find out the names of foreign investors, arguing that they might use international trade agreements to trump state environmental laws.
USA Springs maintains that SOG doesn’t have the standing to make its motion because it has no financial interest in the deal and is instead trying to sabotage it.
The court – at the request of both parties – put that matter off until after Friday, when it will be clearer whether the Malom deal will close after all.
Another hearing has been tentatively scheduled for December 15. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
Then in October 2009, WRG published a landmark report, Charting our Water Future, which analyses the global water supply-demand gap to 2030 and economic options to close the gap. Detailed case studies considered in the report include China, India, South Africa, Mexico and the state of São Paulo in Brazil. http://www.weforum.org/issues/water#note
In short, the mission of this group was not only to analyze water access worldwide, but to create a plan for privatization. Defending Water for Life is extremely concerned about how the worldwide privatization of water services, combined with this international approach to support water commodification, will impact the human right to access water for life, and the rights of communities.
Below is an article by Corporate Accountability International from November 3, 2011, summarizing this monumental attack on the right to water for people, and not for profit:
The World Bank has launched a new partnership with global corporations including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Veolia. Housed at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the new venture aspires to “transform the water sector” by inserting the corporate sector into what has historically been a public service. The new partnership is part of a broader trend of industry collusion to influence global water policy.
The venture — called the 2030 Water Resources Group Phase 2 Entity — aligns global corporations that have major financial stakes in water governance with the World Bank, one of the world’s leading development institutions. Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has been appointed to chair the Water Resources Group, which has already received $1.5 million in IFC funding. Nestlé is the world’s largest water bottling corporation.
Advocates for people’s access to water point to this as the latest example of water corporations’ efforts to interfere in legitimate, democratic water governance. The Water Resources Group presents a conflict of interest to the World Bank’s goal of poverty alleviation. It also advances an approach to water governance that is in incompatible with the U.N. recognized human right to water.
‘This is an unmistakably activist campaign by the private water industry to gain funding and credibility for a radical power grab, with the help of the World Bank,’ said Corporate Accountability International’s Senior Organizer Shayda Edwards Naficy. ‘According to the World Bank, 34 percent of private water contracts are in distress or terminated before maturity. Last April, the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman reported that an astounding 40 percent of complaints received from all regions and sectors were water-related. This is evidence that water privatization has been fraught with a range of problems, including broken promises for expanded service, wasted public funds and threats to human rights, especially for the lowest income families. For the Bank to sanction this approach despite a track record of failure points to compromised decision-making at the Bank due to pervasive partnerships with and financial stakes in corporations.’
Currently, 90 percent of the world’s water-users access water through public delivery. Turning these systems over to private corporations would result in rate hikes, cutoffs and significant layoffs of water sector employees. Focusing on the private sector also distracts from the need to support governments in protecting human rights.
The Water Resources Group aims to ‘develop new normative approaches to water management,’ paving the way for an expanded private sector role into best and common practices, worldwide. In order to be eligible for support from this new fund, all projects must “provide for at least one partner from the private sector,” not simply as a charitable funder, but ‘as part of its operations.’ The group’s strategy is to insert the private sector into water management one country at a time, through a combination of industry-funded research and direct partnerships with government agencies. Currently, the Water Resources Group is formally working with the governments of Jordan, Mexico, and the Indian state of Karnataka, and discussions are ongoing with the governments of South Africa, China and several other countries slated for participation in the next phase.
‘Corporate Accountability International has consistently demonstrated the World Bank’s inherent conflicts of interest, acting as an investor, a government advisor, an arbitrator and a public relations vehicle in support of profiteering in the water sector,’ said Naficy. ‘Global water corporations must not be allowed to tap into public ‘development funds’ to promote their private agenda because case after case shows that profitability and fulfillment of human rights in the water sector are at odds.’
Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) is a membership organization that has, for the last 34 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. Through its Campaign Challenging Corporate Control of Water, Corporate Accountability International is playing a leadership role in the global movement to secure the human right to water, and people’s access to water; prevent corporate control of water; preserve and protect water resources and systems for the public good; and preserve water resources as an ecological trust.
Greetings Water Allies. We have spent the last few months traveling around Maine talking about the problems with corporations taking control of our water and encouraging everyone to take a stand and demand local control in their communities.
We’ve also been keeping our eyes and ears open for new threats from Nestlé and others intent on selling Maine’s water for profit.
Defending Water has been working hard to find out what is really going on here. Inquiries to the Bangor Daily News and the Pine Tree Watchdog website have provided no help in getting to the bottom of this chain of events. Defending Water has also made attempts to contact Rodney Butler directly to have him explain, what’s going on? Is Butler heading the Brewer Water Department AND working for Poland Spring? Did Poland Spring encourage Butler to work for them and then return to Brewer and take the long vacant water supervisor job?
Denise is working to get answers to these questions and will continue to push forward until we get the full story about the Brewer Water Department, Poland Spring, and Rodney Butler. Please contact us if you uncover more about this sketchy job placement for Mr. Butler. Let’s all keep an eye on this!
Defending Water Web Site
We have been working hard to make the Defending Water website http://defendingwater.net/maine the “go to” place for the latest information about corporate threats to Maine’s water and for resources to help in organizing. We are now also linked with Defending Water websites in Washington and Oregon and will soon be linked with California. So, watch for breaking stories on what is happening in Maine, across the country, and around the world in the struggle to keep corporations from gaining control of water, the very essence of life itself.
Be sure to check our map with sites and stories about bottled water in Maine and our calendar for upcoming events around the state. On the home page you will find resources like ”The Story of Bottled Water”. We’d love to hear your suggestions for how the site can serve you even better.
Defending Water Around The State
West Athens 4th of July Parade ~ July 4th
West Athens calls itself the “free republic of West Athens” and started their 4th of July parade way back in the 60s or 70s to celebrate “true democracy” and freedom of expression. So it seemed like an appropriate place to find allies of Defending Water for Life, as well as to network with people in rural areas who may be concerned about the threat to Maine’s water and forests from development of any future East/West highway across Maine.
Volunteers helped prepare our float. We draped the large Maine Drain banner over the hood and grill of the truck, and strung up the banners on the side and back of the truck.
We had two 30 gallon drums in the truck filled with creek water that volunteers used as “ammo” for the water cannons and sprayed parade participants. (Historically, this parade has involved a big play water fight.) The center piece of our float was a volunteer dressed up as a “Nestlé Monster.” She was draped in Poland Spring bottles, had “blood” painted around her mouth, and acted scary.
Another volunteer wore a rigid poster with the “Anti-Bottled Water Pledge” and gathered signatures for that pledge. Anyone who signed the pledge got “water warrior” stripes painted on their face…if they wanted. The poster was FULL of signatures! Chris wore the Nestlé Maine Drain sandwich board chanting, “Water for Life, Not for Profit!” and leading calls with volunteers on the float. She talked to lots of people about water mining and the East/West highway. This created great exposure for the reality of water mining in Maine and the danger that the highway, if built, could result in much more.
Thanks to all our volunteers: Kyla, Liam, Trouble, Becca, Nate, Sam, Paul, Sonia, Jim, and Lee. We had lots of fun and really got our message out. See you next year!
Maine Grassroots Media Conference ~ September 10th
WERU Community Radio and Unity College sponsored the Maine Grassroots Media Conference (MGMC). The mission was to bring people together who work in grassroots media to collaborate and strengthen their work. It turned out to be a great networking and skill building opportunity.
The one-day event was chock full of outstanding workshops. Chris learned about utilizing local access television to organize a local community, using art to communicate political messaging. and how to use “mind mapping” to brainstorm in a group, organize thoughts, and create graphics that express the brainstorm. Chris has since used this tool.
We will be posting the dates for next year’s MGMC on our calendar, so please stay tuned. We’re planning to be there and hope to see you too.
Grow ~ September 16th – 18th
Just a few days later, we attended the annual New England’s Grassroots Organizing Workshop (GROW) held on the beautiful shores of Bryant Pond. Grow is sponsored by Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC). This year’s theme was “Tactics for Organizers”.
Three days of workshops included, Canvassing: One to One Organizing, Media Tactics for Grassroots Organizing, Using Referenda and Town Meeting Resolutions, Using
Popular Education to Organize, and Direct Action for Social Change. In addition to workshops, GROW uses interactive methods to help attendees develop their skills in planning actions and becoming better organizers.
The workshops were interactive, educational and lots of fun. A large amount of printed materials on a variety of subjects was available. A wide range of amazing people attended including organizers, activists, artists, students, teachers and farmers. Facilitators included Clair Gelinas, Iggy Brimmer, Sha’an Mouliert and Larry Dansinger.
Defending Water encourages everyone to try and attend this event next year. Cost is $10-$80 (pay what you can/all welcome) which includes housing, meals, all workshops, use of facilities and enjoyment of the outdoors. If you can’t make the whole weekend it is worth the trip to go for a day. Check our calendar for next year’s dates.
Thanks to everyone who made GROW possible.
Common Ground Fair ~ September 23th – 25th
Defending Water for Life organizers Denise and Chris spent three days in Unity at the annual Common Ground Fair, talking with hundreds of people from all over the state having them sign our poster-sized anti-bottled water pledge, and draw on quilt squares to add to our water quilt.
Drawing on quilt squares at the fair.
When folks approached us with concerns about Nestlé in their towns or neighbors’ towns, we talked about a rights-based approach to undermine corporate power. Only a few people had heard about this method of empowerment at the local level and appeared excited and inspired by the end of our talks.
It was powerful to hear so many people across Maine share their stories and their passion for water. We learned a great deal about some core issues concerning Maine residents who want to buck the bottle, but feel helpless. In many locations Mainers have problems with arsenic and radon in their water. This is a rural, well-water issue that needs to be addressed moving forward.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and contributed. It was great to see all of you and we look forward to next year.
Harry Brown’s Farm ~ Summer 2011
Defending Water also spent time talking to people at Harry Brown’s Farm, a MOFGA certified organic garden in Starks, Maine, which has hosted gatherings for 21 years. The Hill hosts four annual festivals featuring music, speakers, art, vendors, dance, puppets, poi, and political activism. There are plenty of workshops where you can learn new things and opportunities for hands-on creating of cool stuff. The Hill attracts a diverse and interesting group of artists and activists, so you never know whom you might meet.
Thanks to the Brown family and Hillary Lister for inviting us into the political action tent. It is a good opportunity to join others working to create a better Maine, especially to empower each other to be a strong force for protecting Maine’s water and demanding local control in our communities.
Political action tent on the Hill.
Defending Water Joins Wells Reserve Sponsored Tour ~ October 5th
While Defending Water’s primary focus is on opposing corporate control of water and water services in Maine, our right to clean water is also impacted by long-standing pollution and mismanagement of our watersheds. Defending Water was happy to join the tour sponsored by Wells Reserve to see all of the great projects taking place in Kittery and Eliot to restore the Spruce Creek watershed and to help re-open shellfish harvest areas. Other participants included folks from Spruce Creek Association, FB Environmental, Kittery and York Land Trusts, Kennebunk Conservation Committee and Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership.
The focus of the project, funded through a multi-phased DEP grant, is on managing storm water using low impact development and best management practices to reduce bacteria loading and the export of other pollutants into Spruce Creek and on the removal of Shoreys Brook dam. At various sites in Kittery and Eliot we saw examples of the work being done. These included:
Rain Gardens – Shallow depressions with native plants that allow storm water to collect and naturally seep into the ground.
Vegetated Buffers – Areas of vegetation maintained to protect the water quality of nearby water bodies.
Infiltration Steps – Steps taken to slow down storm water runoff and encourage it to seep into the soil.
Tree Box Filter – An in ground container planted with native tree species. Storm water is directed into the tree box and is naturally filtered before it enters the catch basin.
Removing the Shoreys Brook Dam – The dam at the head of Shoreys Brook, which forms the border between Eliot and South Berwick, has likely been in place in some form since the 1600’s. The dam blocks the passage of a variety of fish that need to spend portions of their lives in both fresh and salt water. The goal is to remove the dam and replace the culvert under Rt.101. Both tasks will restore fish passage and a free flowing system.
Shoreys Brook joins the Salmon Falls River at its junction with the Cocheco River where they form the Piscataqua River.
Shoreys Brook dam.
Behind The Scenes
Fryeburg continues to suffer under the weight of Nestlé’s water mining for its Poland Spring brand and its unscrupulous manipulations of town politics. The towns Comprehensive Plan is being re-written virtually in secret, with no public announcement of the time and place for the meetings. Gene Berghoffen, who has represented Nestlé, heads the Comprehensive Plan committee which could frame the future town plan for the advancement of all things Nestlé.
Changes in land use regulations, residential re-districting and wellhead protection could all be affected by what is written in the Comp. Plan. Like all town business, these meetings should be open to the public and be observed by anyone interested. Defending Water is supporting local residents who are demanding that the meetings be made public. It is totally unacceptable that Nestlé is allowed to manipulate things behind closed doors.
Indian Township, Maine
This summer Defending Water became aware that the Passamaquoddy tribe at Indian Township has been working with the University of Maine at Orono and the Maine Drinking Water Program on an economic development plan to extract and bottle water from the Tomah spring on tribal lands. This project is described here, http://passamaquoddyblue.com/ At this time the Passamaquoddy do not have the permits to extract or transport water and it is unclear if they have the necessary financing, but there are several test wells already in place.
For century’s native people have had their livelihood taken away and been forced to do what they were told by whites in power. In Maine the native tribes are a sovereign people with their own government and leaders, but the Passamaquoddy are in real need of jobs and financial stability.
During her time on the Mother Earth Water Walk, Chris developed a relationship with many of the native people who joined in the walk. That effort opened a door for Defending Water to enter into discussion with some tribal members who do not believe that selling water is in keeping with their belief about honoring and respecting water. We are seeking ways for Defending Water and tribal members to stand together with the common goal that water is for people and for nature and should not be sold for profit. It is essential to find other ways for the tribe to prosper and we hope that the program at U Maine Orono will change its focus.
– Plan local events in your community to talk about the importance of protecting water from commodification and privatization. Please contact us! We are available and energized to come speak, screen films or be part of a community forum.
– Hold a Democracy School in your community. Defending Water cosponsors Democracy Schools with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). During these single day or weekend workshops, participants learn about the history of democracy and the increasing power of corporations in the U.S., and how to use local control to create true democracy in our communities. We will help you find participants and bring CELDF to your community.
– East/West Highway. We have just sent you and all of our Defending Water allies an action alert outlining how you can get involved to protect Maine’s water and forests from this road to exploitation. We are focusing on identifying potentially impacted land owners. Contact us if you have any information about the highway and/or if you would like us to add you to the East/West Highway Working Group.
– Watch out for the TransPacificPartnership Agreement which the U. S. is negotiating with at least 7 countries circling the Pacific from Chile to Australia. This is another Free Trade Agreement that would further undermine state and local control of businesses, services and the environment. We are particularly concerned with trade rules that would further promote privatization of water services and international trade in water. As we get more details we will post them on our website.
Mousam River, Kennebunk Maine
We look forward to hearing from you about your interests and concerns as we pursue strategies to protect Maine from corporate greed.