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Action Alert: East-West Highway Feasibility Study Moving Forward!

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.

Background

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.

Why now?

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.
  • The Summit to Connect Education and Business in Eastern Maine is hosting an event to reach out to educators on December 8. (Here is information on this event: http://www.emdc.org/?id=44&sub_id=188, and the new program at WCCC: WCCC creates new International Commerce Business program)

LR 2358 was 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)

Action Items:

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?
  • Here is a link to a sample letter: http://defendingwater.net/maine/2011/12/sample-letter-…mittee-members/

List of Transportation Committee Members:

Senators:

Douglas Thomas- R (sponsor)  277-3017  firewood@tds.net

Ronald Collins- R  985-2485  SenRonald.Collins@legislature.maine.gov

Bill Diamond- D 892-8941 SenBill.Diamond@legislature.maine.gov

Representatives:

Wayne Parry- R  286-9145  RepWayne.Parry@legislature.maine.gov

Alexander Willette- R  689-8332  alexander.willette@gmail.com

James Gillway- R  548-6372  RepJames.Gillway@legislature.maine.gov

Kimberley Rosen- R  469-3779  Kurlykim40@aol.com

Peter Rioux- R  659-2293  RepPeter.Rioux@legislature.maine.gov

Richard Cebra- R  693-6782  RepRich.Cebra@legislature.maine.gov

Ann Peoples- D  287-1430  RepAnn.Peoples@legislature.maine.gov

Charles Theriault- D  728-4526  RepCharlesK.Theriault@legislature.maine.gov

Edward Mazurek- D  542-0017  RepEd.Mazurek@legislature.maine.gov

George Hogan- D  423-4293  RepGeorge.Hogan@legislature.maine.gov

Please let us know whom you have contacted.

Thanks!

Chris Buchanan  chris@defendingwater.net

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