Tonight on National Geographic, a look at water and power in California

Big storms and a generous Sierra snowpack indicate that the historic California drought may be coming to an end (though whether it will end with a return to even-tempered weather or be replaced by more climate weirdness remains to be seen).

A new documentary promises to shape our appreciation of how water politics have shaped, and been shaped, by which entities hold power in the state, and it airs tonight on the National Geographic channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. Entitled “Water and Power: A California Heist”  and directed by Marina Zenovich, it looks at how heedless groundwater tapping and secret deals over water rights have endangered the sustainability and safety of California’s water.

The Los Angeles Times praised the film’s long view of policy, from the Monterey Amendments on, and called the film “a Compelling picture of timeless greed.” Hopefully documentaries such as this help bring the era of backroom deals and thoughtless overuse of water to an end.

You can listen to an interview with Zenovich here.

A video report on a victory through SB88

Follow this link to watch a video report on the effect that the Human Right to Water law, SB88, has had for the residents of Matheny Tract, California.  Matheny Tract is a small town of about 1,000 people in the Central Valley. A majority of its residents are immigrants who live under the poverty line. And many of them can’t remember the last time they had access to clean water. For eight years, Matheny Tract residents lived with known poisonous water, contaminated by arsenic and by pesticides from nearby fields.

As of last week, the town has access to clean water. That’s because of SB88 in California, a new law that makes providing clean water the responsibility of the state and gives California the ability to force nearby cities like Tulare to share its clean water supply with impoverished communities like Matheny Tract. Just as they have for the past eight years, Matheny Tract pays for its water, but now, it’s water they can use.

Source: http://www.newsy.com/videos/beyond-flint-this-town-is-a-test-case-for-water-as-a-human-right/

Water, climate, and the military tomorrow on “Corporations and Democracy” radio

Nsecuredisposessedick Buxton is tomorrow’s guest on “Corporations & Democracy” radio, streaming online on KZYX.org starting at 1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. Eastern, and available after that at afdradio.org. Nick is co-editor of The Secure and the Dispossessed – How the military and corporations are seeking to shape a climate-changed world, published last year by Pluto Press. He’ll be talking about how big corporations and the military are already planning to maintain control in the face of the climate crisis. Adaptation to a climate-changed world is desperately needed, but he’ll detail how the powerful opt for militarized responses that provide security for the few, instead of protecting the rights and future of all of us.

Nick has been involved in global justice campaigning for more than two decades. He coordinated communications for Jubilee 2000, the international movement to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest countries. While living in Bolivia he worked with the group Fundación Solón, focusing on trade, water, culture and historical memory, and chronicled national resistance to neoliberal economic policies, including the election of Evo Morales in 2005. He has also worked for the Transnational Institute, a thinktank supporting social movement work against corporate impunity, unjust trade and investment agreements. He has also published articles on debt and globalization.

“Corporations & Democracy” is a long-running, community-based radio show co-produced by Alliance for Democracy members and friends on Mendocino County Public Radio, at KZYX-FM. The show features speakers and specialists on how giant corporations have degraded our democracy, and how citizens around the country are working to reduce corporate power and build a real democracy.

Past guests have included Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Frances Moore Lappe, Ralph Nader, Thom Hartmann, Helen Caldicott, David Korten, Medea Benjamin, George Lakoff, Greg Palast and Noam Chomsky. The show also looks at what is going on locally, in Mendocino’s towns and in the county, focusing on government, development, and agriculture.

Corporations & Democracy is broadcast live on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m., Pacific Coast time.

New Video Highlights Protection of Cascade Locks Water

This new video on the community fight to protect Cascade Locks OR water from being bottled and shipped by Nestlé needs to be watched and shared! Alliance for Democracy is an endorser of the campaign.

A ballot measure for Hood River County, in which the town of Cascade Locks is located, seeks to block the export of water by by banning any water bottling operation that produces 1,000 gallons or more a day. Nestlé expects to package 11 times that amount from Oxbow Springs in an average hour. The group Local Water Alliance is backing the measure, and you can learn more about them, and support their work, at their website.

Protesters converge on Nestlé bottling plants in Sacramento and LA

The outrage over the bottling of California water by Nestlé, Walmart and other big corporations during a record drought has become viral on social media and national and international press websites over the past couple of months.

On May 20, people from across the state converged on two Nestlé bottling plants – one in Sacramento and the other in Los Angeles – demanding that the Swiss-based Nestlé corporation halt its bottling operations during the state’s record drought.

Wednesday’s protest, led by the California-based Courage Campaign, was the third in Sacramento over the past year. The first two protests were “shut downs” this March and last October organized by the Crunch Nestlé Alliance. For my report on the March protest, go to:http://www.truth-out.org/….

For over an hour Wednesday, over 50 protesters held signs and marched as they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Nestlé Waters has got to go,” “Water is a human right! Don’t let Nestlé win this fight,” and “Keep our water in the ground, Nestle Waters get out of town.”

One eight-foot-long banner at the Sacramento protest read: “Nestle, 515,000 people say leave California’s precious water in the ground,” referring to the total number of signatures on the petitions.

At the protests, activists delivered the 515,000 signatures from people in California and around the country who signed onto a series of petitions to Nestlé executives, Governor Brown, the California State Water Resources Control Board,  and the U.S. Forest Service urging an immediate shutdown of Nestlé’s bottling operations across the state.

The petitions were circulated by Courage Campaign, SumOfUs.org, CREDO, Corporate Accountability International, Avaaz, Food & Water Watch, Care2, Change.org and Daily Kos.

In Sacramento, local activists and residents joined residents from San Francisco and Oakland who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 8670 Younger Creek Drive. View photos from the Sacramento protest here: https://www.flickr.com/… in California.

Jessica Lopez, the Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, participated in the protest with her daughter, Salvina Chinook.

“I stand here in solidarity with everybody here demanding the protection of our water rights,” said Chair Lopez. “Nestle needs to stop bottling water during this drought. Why have they obtained their current permits to pump city water?”

Tim Molina, Strategic Campaign Organizer for the California-based Courage Campaign, who spoke at the Sacramento event, said to the crowd, “Today we are saying enough is enough. With people across California doing their part to conserve water — it’s time that Nestlé did the right thing and put people over profits –  by immediately halting their water bottling operations across the State.”

“If Nestlé won’t do what’s right to protect California’s precious water supply, it is up to Governor Brown and the California Water Resource Control Boards to step in and stop this blatant misuse of water during our State’s epic drought,” he said.

“Bottling public water for private profit doesn’t make sense for communities and it doesn’t make sense for the environment,” said Sandra Lupien, Western Region Communications Manager at Food & Water Watch, also at the protest in Sacrmaento. “During a historic drought crisis, it is utter madness to allow corporations like Nestlé to suck our dwindling groundwater and sell it for thousands of times what it pays. Putting a halt to water bottling in California is a no-brainer and Governor Jerry Brown must stand up to protect Californians’ public resource.”

After the activists gave the petitions to Nestle representatives at the Sacramento plant, the Nestle supervisor presented the organizers with a letter from Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestle Waters North America, responding to a letter from the Courage Campaign.

Brown wrote, “Keep in mind that beverages consumed in California but not bottled in the state must be shipped a longer distance, which has its own drawbacks, such as the environmental impact of transportation. Sourcing water in California provides water with a lower carbon footprint, which has a beneficial environmental impact. The entire bottled industry accounts for 0.02 percent of the annual water used in California.”

The company said it also would like to engage in “thoughtful dialogue” with the water bottling opponents.

“We appreciate the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue – and in meaningful action – to address California’s water challenges. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you – in person or over the phone – to advance our shared desire for a more sustainable California. We are hopeful that the public discussion we are all engaged in around water use – including your efforts – leads to positive collective action.”

In 2014, Nestlé Waters used about 50 million gallons from the Sacramento municipal water supply to produce “Nestlé Pure Life® Purified Drinking Water” and for other plant operations, according to a statement from Nestlé Waters. To read the city of Sacramento’s responses to my questions about the Nestlé bottling plant’s use of city water, go to:http://www.dailykos.com/…)

In Los Angeles, local activists and residents were joined by people from Orange County and Long Beach who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 1560 East 20th Street.

The representatives from consumer, environmental and human rights groups who participated in the protest, like at the protest in Sacramento, blasted the corporation for making millions off bottled water during the drought when urban users are seeing increasing restrictions on their water use.

“As California’s water supplies dry up, Nestlé continues to make millions selling bottled water and that’s outrageous!” explained Liz McDowell, campaigner for SumOfUs.org. “We’ve stood up to Nestlé exploiting natural resources for profit in the past everywhere from Pakistan to Canada, and now the global community is speaking out before California runs completely dry.”

The Desert Sun reported earlier this month that Nestlé was bottling water in desert and drought-stricken areas of California and selling it for profit, all while its permit for water pipelines and wells in the San Bernardino National Forest lists 1988 as the year of expiration. Nestlé currently extracts water from at least a dozen natural springs in California for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.(http://www.desertsun.com/…)

A majority of people in the U.S. believe Nestle should stop bottling in California, according to a recent poll. However, in spite of the clear and growing public outcry, when asked about the controversy, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown remarked that he wished the multinational corporation could bottle more water from the drought stricken state, the groups pointed out.

“Nestlé is profiteering at the expense of the public interest,” stated Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action. “In the midst of an historic drought with no end in sight, it is wildly irresponsible for Nestle to extract vast amounts of California’s water.”

Joe Baker, Care2’s Vice President of Advocacy and Editorial, said, “Care2 and its 30 million members are an online community standing together for good – and it is not good for the public to have Nestle bottling our water during an extreme drought in California. We’re asking Nestle to do the responsible thing for the public good, and stop bottling water in a drought-stricken area. Every single drop counts.”

“For decades, Nestle has demonstrated a blatant disregard for local communities and the environment,” said Erin Diaz, the campaign director at Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign. “In response to community concerns about its backdoor political dealings and environmental damage, Nestle has poured millions into PR and greenwashing campaigns. But Nestle’s money can’t wash away its abysmal track record, and Californians are demanding an end to Nestle’s abusive practices.”

John Tye, Campaign Director, Avaaz, concluded, “Families across the American West are already paying a steep price for mismanagement and scandalous selloffs of public resources. It’s time for California, and Governor Brown, to set a strong example for conservation and responsive regulation. Tens of thousands of people across the country are tired of watching companies like Nestlé profit at the expense of the taxpayers.”

The protests take place as Jerry Brown continues to push his plan to construct two massive tunnels under the Delta, potentially the most environmentally destructive protect in California history. The twin tunnels would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River to be used by corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as to Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations.

The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species, as well as threaten the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

But the tunnels plan is just one of the many environmentally destructive policies of the Brown administration. Governor Brown has presided over record water exports and fish kills at the Delta pumping facilities; promotes the expansion of fracking in California; pursues water policies that have driven Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and other fish species closer to extinction; and authorized the completion of questionable “marine protected areas” created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist during the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. (http://www.truth-out.org/…)

The groups are now urging everybody to sign the pledge by Daily Kos, Courage Campaign and Corporate Accountability International: Do not drink bottled water from Nestlé:https://www.dailykos.com/…

This is the text of the pledge to Nestlé Corporation:

I pledge to choose tap water instead of buying the following Nestlé products: Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestea, Nestlé Pure Life, Ozarka, Perrier, Poland Spring, Resource, S. Pellegrino, Sweet Leaf, Tradewinds and Zephyrhills.

For more information, go to: https://www.couragecampaign.org/…

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/05/21/18772569.php

Salmon Estuary would be next to largest bottling plant operation in North America

Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin

By Sandra Spargo

DSCN4671

  • Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary

In 2009, a $671,000 grant was spent to restore the Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary. Chinook salmon now have access to a nearly 60-acre tidal channel lagoon and marsh complex. The lagoon is located at the northeast end of Similk Bay, in the Whidbey Basin of Puget Sound, one of 12 pocket estuaries that had been identified as a high priority restoration site in the Chinook Recovery Plan, part of the Puget Sound Shared Strategy.

According to Skagit County Planning and Development Services,

“While the [Anacortes] petition application references the construction of [Tethys Enterprises, Inc.] beverage bottling plant, this specific project, or another, and their potential impacts or merits are not within the scope of the County’s review.”

Thus, citizens are forced to object to an urban growth area (UGA) petition that would eventually allow Anacortes to rezone the 11.15 acres to light manufacturing next to Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary, because any manufacturing—especially North America’s largest bottling plant operation—could pollute the lagoon.

In the Anacortes American of Dec. 5, 2012, Tethys CEO Steve Winter stated, “We definitely plan to use the property in the UGA expansion. It could be used for anything. It could be used for rail transportation staging or it could be used for the [one million square foot] building.”

Cleared old railbed from road

  • The old rail-right-of-way behind the yellow fire hydrant. The Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary is a stone’s throw from the old rail right-of-way that would be rebuilt.

An old rail-right-of-way would need rebuilding and is located at the intersection of Reservation Road and Stevenson Road. Its clearing has grown over, but the yellow hydrant marks the spot. How would storm water runoff and train and truck oil drippings be managed away from the close-by estuary?

Moreover, the rainy season couples with high tides to produce high water levels in the lagoon.  Data collection in the Whidbey Basin indicate that juvenile salmon displaced from Skagit River delta habitat as a result of flood events could reach the lagoon site in as little as five or six hours.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT STEERING COMMITTEE

The Growth Management Act Steering Committee is comprised of representation as follows:

  • City of Anacortes
  • City of Burlington
  • City of Mount Vernon
  • City of Sedro Woolley
  • Port of Anacortes
  • Port of Skagit
  • Swinomish Tribal Community
  • Samish Indian Nation
  • Skagit County
  • Skagit Transit
  • Town of Concrete
  • Town of La Conner

 

TransCanada pitches west-east pipeline

Proposed project would bring crude to refineries in Quebec, Saint John

Link to Article with Videos

CBC News | Apr 2, 2013 9:28 AM ET 

TransCanada Corp. is seeking firm financial commitments from companies seeking to ship crude oil from Western Canada to refineries in Eastern Canada.

The Calgary-based company announced on Tuesday morning a bidding process that will allow interested producers to make binding commitments for space on the pipeline. Companies will have from April 15 to June 17 to enter into long-term commitments to use the pipeline.

The open-season process follows a successful expression-of-interest phase and talks with potential shippers.

TransCanada said if the next phase is successful, it plans to start seeking regulatory approvals later in 2013, and the oil could start flowing to Eastern Canada by late 2017.

The proposal would be to convert 3,000 kilometres of the company’s natural gas pipelines to allow for crude oil to be transported. The company would also be looking at building 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec into Saint John.

The pipeline could carry between 500,000 and 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the eastern refineries, according to the company.

Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday.Premier David Alward called the west-east pipeline proposal an historic initiative. Alward made the comments in front of the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Tuesday. (Robert Jones/CBC)

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Tuesday TransCanada’s announcement was a “positive step.”

“We welcome such proposals, because they can generate thousands of Canadian jobs and long-term economic prosperity — particularly in Quebec and the Maritimes — for generations to come,” Oliver said.

The federal minister said the proposed pipeline project must meet a series of regulatory reviews.

If the project moves forward, Oliver said it would be an important piece of energy infrastructure for Canada.

“Pipelines moving oil from Alberta to Quebec to New Brunswick would be among the most expansive and ambitious stretches of energy infrastructure in the entire world and would contribute to the energy security of Canada and all of North America,” he said.

Officials from the Saint John-based Irving Oil Ltd. have said in the past their refinery could handle western crude oil.

The Irving Oil refinery is the largest in Canada and can process 300,000 barrels of oil per day. Saint John also has a deep-water port and a liquefied natural gas facility.

Oliver said he has recently toured the Irving refinery and the Ultramar refinery in Levis. The federal minister said he plans to tour Suncor’s refinery in Montreal in the coming weeks.

3 days in Alberta

New Brunswick Premier David Alward responded to TransCanada’s announcement on Tuesday morning during a news conference held at the Irving Oil headquarters, calling it an “encouraging step forward.”

The New Brunswick premier said the pipeline proposal is a “historic initiative” for both the province and the country.

“We envision New Brunswick as Canada’s next energy powerhouse and Saint John as the anchor of that powerhouse,” Alward said in front of more than 30 Irving Oil employees.

“If we proceed, this project will strengthen our national and provincial economies and create jobs and economic growth today and for generations to come,” he said, suggesting the project has the potential to be as important to Canada’s economic future as the railway was in the past.

Alward said the pipeline will create high-paying jobs in New Brunswick and will keep workers in the province instead of heading to western Canada to find employment in the oilsands.

“I want to see the day when the mother or father, the son or daughter leave their New Brunswick home in the morning to go to work in the development of natural resources, they will return for dinner that night, not three or four weeks later,” he said.

Alward spent three days in Alberta in February talking to Alberta Premier Alison Redford and oil executives about the possibility of the west-to-east pipeline.

The project has the possibility of creating 2,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline and a few hundred refining jobs after, according to some estimates.

Alberta has been interested in the project, because oil from that province is now being shipped to the United States, where there is a glut. That means oil producers are getting $20 to $40 less per barrel than the world price.

Those lower prices translate into lower royalties for the provincial government, and that is causing a potential multi-billion dollar deficit in Alberta. A pipeline to the Irving Oil refinery would allow Alberta producers to charge the higher world price.

A new pipeline would also alleviate Canada’s dependence on foreign oil and increase the value of Canada’s crude oil through shipping to world markets from the deep-water port of Saint John, said Alward.

Port Saint John president and CEO Jim Quinn welcomed the prospect of playing an integral role in bringing Canadian crude to global markets.

“This opportunity for Saint John and our port is phenomenal,” Quinn said in a statement.

The port, which for 50 years has been handling petroleum cargo for both import and export, currently handles the largest oil tankers in the world, as well as the largest crude carriers, he said.

TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. TransCanada Corp. may build 1,400 kilometres of pipeline, extending its capacity into Saint John. (Courtest of TransCanada)

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March Newsletter

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March 2013 Newsletter- click to view PDF

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin March 2013 Newsletter- click to view PDF

Defending Water in the Skagit Basin, an arm of Defending Water in Washington presents this March 2013 newsletter featuring a Tethys Enterprises Beverage Bottling Plant Site Update. We hope this information provides insight to the impact that the plant will have on Fidalgo Island and surrounding Skagit County Communities.

All the best, Sandra Spargo Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin

Click to view, or Right Click + Save As to download:Defending Water in the Skagit Basin Newsletter – March 2013,

East-West Corridor: Pig in a Poke

Op-Ed by Jane Crosen | February 15, 2013

On January 18, in Eastport and Calais, Cianbro’s program manager Darryl Brown presented the company’s current plans for routing an East-West Corridor through eastern Maine. As with previous promotions, this one was long on vague promises about economic development and avoidance of sensitive areas, but short on maps showing the actual route. Brown’s presentation did, however, reveal enough details for people well acquainted with the downeast landscape to make an educated guess of the Corridor’s route and impacts.

The privately owned transportation and utility corridor across Maine would include a four-lane divided highway authorized for Canadian tandem trailer trucks. Other uses could include pipelines and utilities, although Brown didn’t mention these.

Earlier reports indicated the Corridor proponents were intending to follow the Stud Mill Road, which has a 2,000′ ROW but crosses or closely passes several significant conservation lands, including Sunkhaze NWR, the Machias River Waterway, and the Downeast Lakes Forestry Partnership’s Sunrise Easement. The recent announcement of Cianbro’s commitment to avoid routing through the Sunrise Easement lands came as good news to many (including myself) concerned about the impacts a fenced truck highway and utility corridor would have on eastern Maine’s environment and recreation opportunities. However, the route Cianbro is now proposing would mean cutting a new and longer swath closer to the coast, still crossing the Machias watershed, six other river systems, and a number of conserved areas.

According to Brown, Cianbro ran into a roadblock with routing through Moosehorn NWR, so they decided to “turn challenge into opportunity” by looping closer to the coast. Despite Halifax’s woes from underuse and a proposed superport in Melford, Nova Scotia, Brown believes connectivity to unobstructed deep-water ports at Eastport and Calais would make Maine a major player in global shipping. He wants to encourage development of big-box distribution centers in outlying areas providing jobs handling cargo off super container ships from Asia.

From Calais they now plan to route the 500’ corridor around the east side of Moosehorn’s Baring unit, then south to Route 214 where they may build an interchange for access from Eastport. From Route 214 the Corridor would run west, south of Route 9, likely crossing Route 9 near Wesley where there may be an interchange allowing access from Machias. From there the Corridor would run north to “utilize a 35-mile section of the Stud Mill Road right-of-way” west toward the Penobscot River, crossing north of Bangor. There would be an interchange at Route 95, and another north of Dexter on Route 15.

Besides the Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Brown said Cianbro has “reached out to” several other major conservation and recreation groups. His presentation emphasized the company’s “commitment” to avoid “most” conserved lands, tribal lands, wetlands, deeryards, and vernal pools, including endangered species habitat, as much as possible. (In previous presentations Cianbro “committed” to avoiding “all” conserved lands.) Never has the public seen any mapped portion of the actual intended route. Brown said the company’s routing plans are still a work in progress, and not something they are ready to reveal on maps.

Looking at all the lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams in the area east and south of Moosehorn, and from the Machias–East Machias watersheds west to Beddington and the Stud Mill Road, it’s hard to imagine how the developers would be able to route the Corridor through this area while honoring all their “commitments.” Besides the Machias River Waterway, it would impact or cross a number of other important salmon and trout streams, wildlife management areas, and working forest and conservation lands open to hunting, fishing, and other recreational use by people throughout eastern Maine, supporting guiding, ecotourism, and other local enterprises. The area between Calais, Cobscook Bay, and the Machias River frames many pristine lakes and ponds settled with camps. Eastport and other nearby coastal communities enjoy thriving local and tourist retail and service economies. How would these fare surrounded by major transportation infrastructure carrying heavy trucks loaded with Chinese-manufactured goods to supply big-box retailers? (Brown noted Lewiston’s Walmart distribution center serves over 300 trucks per day.) Would the highway/Corridor development really bring meaningful jobs or long-term benefit to the people in the area it runs through? How would it impact the quality of life in eastern Maine communities? Taxes would be paid to the towns it runs through, but at what cost?

How would the limited-access highway affect travel patterns on local roads and trails? The highway proponents say they would build overpasses or ramps for “all” multiuse gravel roads, and would accommodate wildlife passage with “appropriately located” wildlife crossings and tunnels. They plan to run a recreational trail statewide along the highway for ATVs, snowmobiles, hikers, and horseback riders “providing an outstanding recreational experience.”

Promises aside, common sense tells us highways built for high-speed heavyweight tandem truck traffic cannot weave around every damp spot along the way (and this region has plenty of water). Wetlands are filled in; ramps, roadbeds, and bridge abutments are built up; interchanges and service facilities are developed. Where will all that sand and gravel come from? How much of downeast Maine’s uniquely well-preserved glacial landscape will be scraped up and used to build the highway–or exported? What about the aquifers under the gravel, the streamsheds, lakes, and ponds fed by them? What will happen to the cold-water fisheries? What besides Asian commodities and Canadian products will trucks be carrying? Accidents involving heavy trucks have heavy consequences. What about chemical and fuel spills, de-icing and runoff? Brown minimized the highway’s footprint, but the environmental impacts could be disastrous and very expensive or impossible to clean up, affecting the whole region downstream to the coast.

Such a sensitively routed, state-of-the-art highway as Brown describes would be expensive to build–over four times the cost of improving east-west rail lines between Montreal and eastern Canada, as estimated by the Sierra Club. Rail transport is exponentially safer than truck transport, with far less environmental impact. Many people ask, why is rail not good enough to meet demand for faster east-west freight transport? Brown says trucks do better at meeting global demand for just-in-time delivery. Or is there something else in the pipeline? Maine’s existing east-west rail lines, running not far north of the proposed Corridor route, are already being used to transport tar sands oil from the Alberta oil fields to the Irving refinery in St. John.

The proposed route aligns with convenient export of other natural resources in eastern and northern Maine increasingly valuable in the global economy. Could the Corridor open the door to more wind farms and transmission lines? What about eastern Maine’s abundant supply of fresh water, not just for human consumption but used in gas fracking?

Cianbro is promoting the Corridor as a construction project; who are the investors? As a woman in Calais asked, is it possible a swath across Maine might belong to someone from China? Brown replied that foreign ownership is not only possible but likely according to current trends.

Although growing public opposition has brought several Corridor-related bills before the legislature, the proponents of this project, backed by powerful corporate and political interests, are intent on pushing it through–and not disclosing much about the route or impacts of this proverbial pig in a poke. It would be well for everyone in eastern Maine to learn and demand more information about the project and consider what far-reaching impacts it would have on the environment, economies, communities, and quality of life.

Stop the East-West Corridor, a statewide coalition of concerned citizens and groups working to raise public awareness about the proposed project and impacts, is planning two informational meetings in eastern Maine: in Calais on March 13 at WCCC’s Riverview lecture hall, and in Machias on March 27 at UMM in Room 102 of the Science Building. Both events will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will combine a panel presentation with opportunity for public conversation. Links to articles, study maps, and other information are posted on the coalition’s website, www.stopthecorridor.org.

Jane Crosen is a mapmaker known for her hand-drawn maps of Maine regions. Living in Penobscot, she and her husband have a camp near Wesley. She does eastern outreach for Stop the East-West Corridor.

Pros and cons of east-west highway debated

The Quoddy Tides | January 25, 2013 | Edward French

Link to original article.

Although limited by time constraints in asking questions about the east-west highway project, the nearly 40 people who attended the forum in Eastport pressed the project developer on issues ranging from how the project would benefit Maine, why rail isn’t being considered instead and how much the truck traffic to the Port of Eastport might increase. The informational meetings, held January 18 in Eastport and Calais, were presented by the Cianbro Corporation, which is proposing the project, and the Sunrise County Economic Council.
In his presentation, which took up most of the meeting, Darryl Brown, the program manager for the east-west highway project for Cianbro, pointed to the project’s selling points: attracting additional investment to Maine’s rural communities; reducing travel time; improving utility transmission; and revitalizing Maine’s ports. “It can make Maine the breadbasket of the Northeast,” he said.
Noting that “people are leaving the northern part of the state in droves” and pointing to statistics on the economy, unemployment rate and median age that all show that northern Maine is not faring well, Brown stated, “We believe this will be an economic booster for all of Maine’s economy.”
The 220-mile, 500-foot-wide privately funded corridor would run from Calais to Coburn Gore, and the four-lane highway would provide easier access to the major markets in the Midwest for the Maritimes. Brown noted that Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are the only states lacking an east-west transportation route. Linking to the trade gateways of Montreal and Chicago is “critical to Maine’s economy,” Brown said, noting that Lincoln Paper and Tissue has estimated it would save over $1 million a year in the company’s transportation costs. He added that privately funded infrastructure projects are increasingly being undertaken, since public funding has dried up. At least six interchanges are planned for access to the highway in the state, and a recreational trail would be developed within the corridor.
Brown outlined how the route would be determined, with Cianbro considering property lines, the avoidance of homes, topography, wetlands, conservation lands, deer yards, vernal pools and other environmental concerns. The company is committed to providing wildlife crossings, and eminent domain would not be used for any land acquisition for the road. “It will be the most environmentally compliant road in North America,” he said.
However, a recent Sierra Club national report cites the highway proposal as one of the worst transportation projects in the United States, noting potential negative impacts on Maine’s air and water quality and critical wildlife habitat. The report states that similar highway proposals have been studied and rejected numerous times in the past and that the privately funded highway connecting the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick through forested regions in Maine would serve large industry and trucking interests at the expense of Maine communities. Sierra Club Maine is advocating that the state consider revitalizing the existing freight rail line, which parallels the proposed highway route.

Truck traffic to port
During the forum, Brown said the project would help the Port of Eastport attract additional markets. Container ship traffic is the most efficient means of transporting goods, and that traffic is expected to triple from 2008 to 2024. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, many major ports are having to dredge or cannot handle the larger post-Panamax vessels. “There will be a huge need for ports to handle these larger ships,” Brown said, noting that the Port of Eastport has the greatest depth, at 64 feet, of any port in the continental U.S.
The east-west highway route would go south of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, which would provide closer connectivity for the Port of Eastport. Although the proposal does not at present indicate an access point for the toll highway near the port, Brown said an interchange, possibly near Route 214 in Charlotte, could be included. Questions were raised about the estimated increase in truck traffic in the Eastport area, and Brown said more work needs to be done on any estimates.
Concerning why a rail project is not being undertaken instead, Brown said that rail works best for transporting bulk materials but trucks are better for “just in time” delivery, a production strategy used by certain businesses and industries. “The best model is to have rail, trucks and ports.” Eastport Port Director Chris Gardner commented that port officials know that there is a limit on how much truck traffic can be handled at the port. “Rail connectivity has to be part of our future,” he said. “Without that, we can’t grow to meet our capacity. We want this to mesh with the highway.”

Benefits for Maine?
Others observed that the highway would help Canada a great deal, particularly the Nova Scotian ports at Halifax and Melford, but they wondered how it would help Maine. Suzanne Brown of Milbridge asked how the project would bring money into the state. Noting that she is invested in a farm that serves a local instead of a global market and that the poor soil in Washington County prevents local farmers from competing globally, she said, “I don’t see the highway addressing the state’s economic issues. I don’t think it’s the answer.” Brown responded that the project is being done for Maine, not Canada, and noted that there are good farmland soils in some areas of Maine. He said that Canadian truckers are excited about the project and that they would be paying for the highway through tolls.
Pam Dyer Stewart of Harrington asked what would happen to families that are displaced by the corridor. She said the toll highway would “suck the life out of downtowns” and that the development of distribution centers along the highway, with big-box stores, would harm local small businesses. Studies have shown that such highways do not benefit a state and hurt local downtowns, she said. Brown replied that Cianbro is “committed to limiting the impact to property owners as much as possible.”
Steve Koenig, executive director of Project SHARE (Salmon Habitat and River Enhancement), noted that the corridor would cut across rivers that have an endangered species listing for Atlantic salmon, and Brown said Cianbro would work with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and other groups on that issue.
Concerning possible use of the corridor for power lines or pipelines, Brown says in an interview that there are no plans at this time, although a fiber optic line along the highway corridor might be a possibility. “Down the line there may be a need” for other uses of the corridor, he says. The permitting process for this project, which is estimated will take three years, will be only for the highway. A transmission line or pipeline would have to proceed through a separate permitting process in the future.