Perry extends moratorium on water project

Link to Original BDN Article.

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff | April 22, 2014, at 12:47 p.m. | Last modified April 22, 2014, at 4:44 p.m.

PERRY, Maine — The Perry Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday evening to extend a moratorium that temporarily blocks water exploration activities being conducted by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point.

The proposed extension of the moratorium, put in place for 180 days last fall, did not generate any opposition or controversy.

Five people attended Monday’s public hearing that the board convened on the proposed extension, but the selectmen received no public comments, according to board chairman Karen Raye.

Since voters approved the moratorium at a special town meeting in November, a committee has been at work drafting an ordinance to regulate water exploration activities.

The committee of about 12 people has made good progress, according to Raye. “I’m hoping there is a possibility we could wrap it up in May,” she said Tuesday. If a proposed ordinance is approved by the selectmen in May, Perry citizens may be able to vote on it during the June 10 primary election, she said.

The tribe has a representative on the committee, and Raye said it also was informed of the public hearing.

The moratorium extension does not delay the tribe’s water project, she said. “I don’t think they’re really concerned about us taking a few more weeks.”

Tribe officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The action approved by the board on Monday extends the moratorium on “large scale groundwater extraction activities” for 180 days or until the town adopts an ordinance.

The original moratorium was approved by a 43-0 vote at a special town meeting Nov. 4 and took effect immediately.

The tribe, dissatisfied with the quality of water supplied by the Passamaquoddy Water District, a public utility that serves the reservation and the city of Eastport, has developed several exploratory wells in the town. In late September it conducted tests, pumping out water for 10 days in order to determine the capacity of the wells and the effect on the aquifer. Several Perry residents complained to town officials that those pump-out tests reduced the water level in their wells and tainted the quality of their water. Town officials issued a stop work order at the conclusion of the pump-out tests.

State officials received the tribe’s application for approval of wells in late February, according to Roger Crouse, director of Maine’s drinking water program at the Department of Health and Human Services. State officials sent the tribe a letter on April 16 requesting additional information, he said. Once the additional information is obtained, the permit could be approved within 30 days, according to Crouse.

The tribe is seeking approval of “at least two” wells for public water, including one back-up well, Crouse said Tuesday.

The tribe’s application is “kind of unique,” noted Crouse, because it is seeking to develop a new source of water for an existing water district.

In addition, the tribe is partnering with the federal government to pay for the project. “There’s just a lot of need for communicating and coming to a consensus for what they’re trying to do there,” said Crouse.

The tribe also would have to negotiate an agreement to sell water to the Passamaquoddy Water District.

The entire project, including building a treatment plant and installing a water line, would cost $4-5 million and take several years to complete, according to tribe officials. It would be financed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Maine Passamaquoddy Tribe Hopes to Build Bottled Water Plant

Star Telegram

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine — Tucked in the nation’s northeastern corner, the Passamaquoddy tribe’s ancestral land remains as it was centuries ago: Rugged and teeming with natural beauty and wildlife. Snow-covered in winter, springtime warmth reveals a rolling landscape, lakes and ponds — and dozens of bubbling springs.

But there is an ugly reality inside this idyllic community: Joblessness is rampant, making it hard for residents to feed their families. The tribe also needs more money to bolster public safety and other tribal services.

The leadership has been working on a bold plan to address these issues: Capitalize on the land’s pristine spring water by building a 123,000-square-foot bottling plant and selling the water to customers outside of the tribal land.

Read more :

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/12/01/5382223/tribe-hopes-to-build-bottled-water.html?rh=1

Just Say No to Multinationals? For Rural Communities, It’s Not Always That Simple

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 00:00 By Alissa Bohling, Truthout

The people of economically depressed Cascade Locks, Oregon, are divided about a proposal by Nestle to go into business with the city to extract spring water from its cherished watershed, bringing jobs and sorely needed revenue.

 

Nestle Water North America’s makeshift office in Cascade Locks, Oregon, is two doors down from the post office. Most people on their way to get their mail on a rainy Thursday morning at the end of February pass the same tableau, if they bother to look. And they might not have looked, because so many of the storefronts in Cascade Locks are empty these days, have been for years. But framed in one of the twin picture windows of the building he shares with a vacant ice cream parlor is Dave Palais, behind his desk in a plaid shirt, communing diligently with his computer, looking for all the world like a still life and nothing like the storm cloud of multinational doom he could be said to symbolize in certain environmentalist circles.

 

For a few days every couple of weeks, Palais makes the seven-hour trip from Redding, California, on business for Nestle, where he works as a natural resource manager. Cascade Locks, about 40 miles east of Portland in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, has a lot of natural resources: salmon in the Columbia River (where dams have cut their habitat by more than half), timber on the craggy hills unfolding from Mount Hood 50 miles away, to the cliffs backdropping the town (where the logging industry all but died decades ago) and water that melts off the slopes of the mountain and flows into town in creeks known for their excellent fishing and hiking.

 

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Palais and the Nestle Company – purveyor of Pellegrino, Perrier and 10 other brands of bottled water – are here for Oxbow Springs, which flows onto a mossy tumble of rocks above a fish hatchery a few miles out of town. But before that water can be sealed in a plastic bottle and slapped with a label (“Arrowhead ® Brand 100% Mountain Spring Water”), there are three legal challenges to face, all compliments of environmental organizations Bark, and Food and Water Watch. The legal hurdles are expected to delay a proposal by the company for two or three years, if they don’t kill it altogether.

 

The challenges stem from an unconventional proposal that Nestle, the city and the state’s business development agency put to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) back in 2009.  Nestle is proposing to gain access to the spring via a water exchange with Cascade Locks. Through the exchange, the city would supply the state hatchery with municipal well water in exchange for about five percent of the spring’s volume, which the city would in turn sell to Nestle.

 

ODFW tends not to dabble in trade – it’s got its hands full raising the next generation of endangered salmon, for starters – but the state’s former governor said it should go ahead and look into the deal; jobs are jobs, and Cascade Locks needs them. And about that municipal water? Nestle would buy it too, to market under its Pure Life brand. Nothing in the deal has been finalized, and the environmental challenges get pretty technical; suffice it to say that selling public water to a private company is not as popular with conservationists as it is with Nestle, which managed to pull in over $4 billion with its 2010 bottled water sales.

 

Considering the vocal opposition that has rallied over the years, Palais’ office is remarkably quiet. Maybe that’s because much of the pushback is unfolding silently in briefs being filed before the administrative law judge expected to hear the first challenge in June. And maybe it’s because much of the opposition is from outside Cascade Locks.

 

Palais says nearly 90 percent of the town’s residents want his company to set up shop here. He admits it’s a ballpark number, and what he says next would sound like standard PR, except that it’s also true: “They’re extremely frustrated that outside activists are trying to control this.” Maybe not everyone, and maybe not 90 percent – but yes, they are. In the words of one local person, “The people who are opponents are from Portland, and that really pisses everybody in this town off.”

 

Rich in Resources, Economically Poor

 

Martha La Mont has worked hard to improve the Cascade Locks food bank since she moved to town four years ago from Southern California after retiring from a career in real estate. She’s proud that people can now get milk and eggs with their monthly supplies, and her no-nonsense manner waxes almost ecstatic over a recent donation of olive oil and top-shelf jelly. She’s got plenty of energy left over to say what she thinks of the out-of-towners who oppose the Nestle project. “How about each of you fork over $5,000 a year and then we can take Nestle away?” said La Mont. “We’ve got people here who need food.”

 

Nestle has been criticized for targeting economically depressed rural communities, and Cascade Locks certainly fits the bill. In the town of about 1,150, the unemployment rate was reported at 16 percent this year. Over 50 families use the local food bank while others travel the 20 interstate miles to another one in more prosperous Hood River. In 2009, fewer than 10 percent of adults had four-year college degrees, less than half of the state average. The municipal government is desperate for revenue. The chief of the city’s fire department resigned in 2011 from his post as the sole paid staff member in the wake of cuts to the department’s budget and his salary; now, a single paramedic does double duty as fire chief while the rest of the department remains volunteer. The city’s museum and youth recreation programs were recently put on indefinite hold. The town’s main street is checker-boarded with empty storefronts. Its volunteer mayor also works as a riverboat captain, park maintenance person and ski lift operator, depending on the season.

 

Tom Cramblett was elected to the mayoral seat in January after five years on the City Council. He’s lived in Cascade Locks all his life, and he remembers it as a different town before the 1988 closure of the sawmill that sat on part of the oak-dotted swathe of land that is the town’s mostly vacant industrial park, where Nestle would build its bottling plant. The mill closed along with hundreds of others around the country in the wake of new protections for wildlife habitat and was key in funding the city’s power, sewer, water and cable services. Nestle says it would create about 50 jobs, and the city estimates the operation would add about $50 million in property tax and utility fee revenue to Cascade Locks’ current budget of $70 million.

 

While Cascade Locks’ dire economic straits may be convenient for Nestle, the town’s draw for the company is also a matter of basic logistics.

 

“The good spring water is out in the rural regions,” says Palais. At the fish hatchery just below Oxbow Spring where Nestle wants to build its pipeline, fish outnumber people by the hundreds. (The spring also happens to emerge mere feet from the national forest boundary, where Nestle would have been subject to a stricter set of environmental regulations.) It pours from a mossy concrete block in silver ribbons flashing underneath a crown of white spray. Sipped from a cupped hand it tastes slightly metallic and more like air than water. The hatchery is deserted at the lunch hour, and a buzzer sounds across the property in time with the ring of an unattended phone, overtaking the sound of the miniature waterfalls feeding the runways where fish dart back and forth.

 

Hatcheries can be a divisive topic in conservation circles, where some maintain the operations are a Band-aid for more systemic problems like dams and pollution, and studies have raised questions about genetic viability. But, at least for these fish, they seem to be a good thing. The bigger fish are silver-blue, and they swim fast, scattering and disappearing, turning turquoise when the light is right. The younger ones are a duller color and they move like they’re just waking up, their short bodies barely bending. ODFW says it will only go through with the exchange if it’s best for the fish, and there’s been talk that the swap could supply the agency with extra water in the summer and allow it to raise more sockeye, one of the most stressed species of the embattled salmon populations.

 

An Easier Place to Raise Fish Than People?

 

Back in town, Cassie Madrid answers the door with her 1-year-old. The rainbow-lettered banner from his birthday party still hangs behind the television. Marcos Madrid flips through a catalogue, expertly ignoring the dog growling under the couch. He and his wife are hospitable and easygoing, warning visitors to watch their step on the rain-slick ramp up to the entrance of their trailer home. They say raising their children in Cascade Locks has been a slippery prospect, too. Marcos was laid off around the holidays when the pub he worked for came under new ownership, and Cassie, who cooked for two years at the local drive-through and another restaurant across the Columbia River in Washington State, is enrolled in a class for job-seekers.

 

Marcos loved Cascade Locks when Cassie took him to see where she spent her summers growing up. He’s an ex-gang member, and he liked the idea of raising his kids away from the city life that cut his childhood short. But since the high school closed in 2009, and the middle school followed the next year, graduating elementary school here means an interstate commute to class. Plus there’s that hold on the youth recreation program.

 

The Madrids say drugs are a problem with young people here in a way they weren’t when Cassie was young, and they blame the lack of opportunities and sheer boredom. Cassie has no qualms about snatching cigarettes straight out of the mouths of other people’s kids when she catches them smoking, but she’s not waiting around for her own to pick up the habit.

 

The Madrids plan to move as soon as they can. While they’re not exactly apathetic about the Nestle project, their take on the debate, which has risen and fallen in time with the slow march of public meetings since Nestle approached city leaders in 2008, is on the dispassionate side. “I have nothing against it,” Cassie says evenly. If small towns had diplomats, she would make a good one. Bottled water sounds a lot better to her than a casino, another candidate for industry in town that ultimately fell flat, but not before years of false hope for a cash infusion and worries from people like Cassie, who feared it would bring prostitution and a hard-partying clientele.

 

When her daughter calls from her after-school program, Cassie answers her phone on the first ring; she needs her mom’s help filling in the blanks on her family tree project. Growing up, Cassie says, she only had to go as far as the grocery store to be introduced to another long-lost relative, but things are different now. At least her daughter seems to like the after-school thing, and what kid wouldn’t love to build a robot out of a toothbrush like she did last week? But besides that, “There’s nothing for them to fall back on,” Cassie says, shaking her head for the sake of her own kids and everyone else’s. It’s easy to follow the dismissive wave of her hand out the window, where playing outside looks pretty unappealing as the rain pours down in sheets.

 

Cascade Locks gets over 75 inches of rain a year. (By comparison, nearby Portland averages 39 inches annually.) The impressive number is not lost on Mayor Cramblett: “What we feel good about is that we have an abundance of water. There’s a lot of places in the world that are hurting for that, and they’re fighting over that.” So as far as the Nestle proposal goes, “We look at it as a way to help people out with their water issues.” Cassie also figures all that water could do some good closer to home. After all, Nestle is already showing its support for the community. At the going-away party she attended for the two women who staffed the suspended youth recreation program, the company made sure everyone had enough bottled water to drink.

 

In a small town, a little corporate goodwill goes a long way. Martha La Mont says Nestle has donated $3,000 to the food bank in the past two years. In 2009 and 2010, according to a company fact sheet, the company gave $3,500 to the Port of Cascade Locks for a tourism festival, another thousand dollars or so to sailing organizations, plus close to 20,000 bottles of water for local sporting events.

 

Cause for Skepticism

 

The company is clearly good for a few grand here and there. But Kate Stuart is not impressed.  “All we’re going to get out of this is one large water customer and the taxes,” she says. “I think we should get more from a multinational corporation.”

 

Stuart moved to town from Sonoma County six years ago. Her group of friends first came together to organize against the casino, and now they have their eye on Nestle.

 

Stuart is a lively skeptic and the fleece bandana wrapped around her head seems like the only thing holding her features on her face as they dance in time with the argument she’s mapping out at a diner booth overlooking the Columbia River.

 

The waterway is basically an interstate for barges and the trains that run on the banks on both sides, but from this height it’s easy to imagine it’s pristine.

 

“I have breast cancer, so I obviously have a reason not to like plastic,” says Stuart. But the fact that the illness she’s spent nine years battling has been linked to certain plastics by some studies is more of an addendum to another concern: “I don’t like water leaving watersheds.”

 

The Oregon law placing strict limitations on removing state waters from their basin of origin acknowledges that messing with a natural water network can be risky for ecosystems. Now environmental groups say the state is endangering the Herman Creek watershed that feeds both Oxbow Spring and the municipal well.

 

“We don’t know what a sustainable long-term withdrawal [from the municipal well] looks like for Cascade Locks,” says Food & Water Watch’s Julia DeGraw. She said the amount of well water Nestle plans to pump was even redacted from the documents the government provided in response to a public records request about the proposal. Without more details, who knows? If the aquifer is drained too low, says DeGraw, “the Columbia could infiltrate the groundwater system.”

 

As far as the spring water, DeGraw says the swap would set a “dangerous precedent” by creating a “de facto partnership” between the state and Nestle. ODFW makes a point of emphasizing that its agreement to consider trading water with Cascade Locks is between the two governments and does not include Nestle. But DeGraw isn’t swayed by the technicality; ultimately, she says, the deal would “give away public water resources for a water bottling company’s gain.”

 

In the inexact science of local word of mouth, the pro- and anti-Nestle camps split down a line between dyed-in-the wool old-timers and relative newcomers like Stuart. But on the subject of kids, she doesn’t sound that different from Cassie Madrid. She has a protective streak, and she makes a point of keeping friendly tabs on the young people in town. “It makes me feel like everybody’s kids are just a little bit of mine,” she says, her eyes for once leaving her notebook to look down at the river. “I don’t know what we’re going to leave them.”

 

Privatizing Water on a Warming Planet

 

Olivia Schmidt with Bark, the organization joining Food & Water Watch on the legal challenges to the water swap and the wider campaign against Nestle, shares Stuart’s concern. “Selling off access to clean water resources is absolutely not what we need to be doing from a public policy perspective at a time when we have begun to feel the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest,” says Schmidt. “That’s like a small island in the South Pacific saying, ‘Well, the water isn’t drowning us now, so we’re going to be fine forever’ – and now those communities are all climate refugees. It’s irresponsible to be looking at what’s happening right now without looking at the population growth that’s going to be happening in this area because of this climate change.” A 2012 report by Oregon’s transportation agency acknowledged that some of the state’s projected population increase is expected to come from people fleeing areas more vulnerable to drought and other climate change impacts.

 

But some things have a way of focusing the mind on surviving the present, and poverty and unemployment make the top of the list. Palais says bottling plant jobs will pay in the upper half of the wage scale for similar jobs in the region. That sounds good to Debbie Gunter. Her husband has been out of work for two years since he was laid off from his job at Wal-Mart in a Portland suburb about 40 miles away, where he worked the 3-to-11 shift and got home around 1 AM. That was hard, and then gas prices went up. And Gunter is a little more familiar than she’d like to be with the city’s funding challenges. A health problem caught up with her during a gap in emergency services that followed the fire chief’s resignation. Despite her medication and a new Jazzercise regimen, she found herself in need of an ambulance. The closest one took 45 minutes to get to her from across the river in Washington. Gunter says she almost died. These days, the Gunters are considering a move to Portland.

 

People stay in Cascade Locks for a reason. Property is relatively cheap, and the landscape is stunning. The river has earned a reputation as a world-class sailing destination, and a hiking trail that stretches from the Mexican border all the way to Canada runs right through town. The Outdoor Industry Foundation estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $4.6 billion in revenue via retail and service statewide and supports 73,000 Oregon jobs, but Cascade Locks isn’t seeing enough of that money. The town’s tourism council is trying to change that, but efforts like a new mountain biking trail and extending the beach near the sailing club are works in progress with no clear payoff yet. “Things are getting tougher here; it’s not getting better,” says La Mont. “I think too many people were planning on that casino.” So maybe it’s not surprising that the campaign groups like Bark and Food & Water Watch are waging against Nestle is regarded with some suspicion. “It becomes a fundraiser for them just as the casino became a fundraiser for organizations that didn’t like casinos,” says Cramblett.

 

Bark and Food & Water Watch both say that’s not true. (In fact, Bark’s internal bylaws forbid taking public positions solely for fundraising purposes.) And while Food & Water Watch might not be putting 50 jobs on the table, DeGraw says her organization does have something to offer low-income communities. “In Oregon and throughout the US, we have been very involved in the movement to increase public investment in water infrastructure, which benefits low-income consumers who are often hit the hardest when water systems fall into disrepair and who often cannot afford the very water that’s being pumped from the ground and sold back to consumers at an exorbitant markup.” Nestle says most of its bottled water is sold in multipacks that pencil out to about 22 cents a bottle, but the company has come under fire for trying to strike deals like one that ultimately failed in McCloud, California, in which it would have bought water for .000081 cents per gallon.

 

Cascade Locks officials are still poring over science and case studies while they wait for the state side of the deal to shake out. “I admit Nestle is one of those things that to us seems like a no-brainer, but obviously in this world, nothing’s a no-brainer anymore,” says Cramblett. “We’re trying to attract people but it seems like every time we attract somebody, it’s the wrong person.”

 

His words go to the heart of the struggle of many rural and small town communities, which must often choose between welcoming a corporate giant in exchange for modest or meager jobs or fighting an increasingly difficult battle to survive. Cramblett’s father was a hunter, trapper and fisherman from Cascade Locks; he even foraged for cascara bark, an ingredient in natural medicine. There’s nothing new about counting on the land for a living in a place like this, but in a globalized era, the line between subsistence and exploitation has come into sharper focus – even for those who would rather look away.  (That isn’t lost on Nestle: The glossy info packets overflowing the table at the front of Palais’ office are an object lesson in sustainability-as-selling-point: “Our second generation Eco-Shape bottle uses 25 percent less plastic than the previous Eco-shape bottle”; “The amount we use is far less than the water needed to produce other beverages, such as beer and soft drinks.”)

 

But Schmidt is not convinced. “When white settlers came into the Pacific Northwest, it was really well-forested, and now, it’s not,” she says. “If our policymakers are subsidizing this kind of extractive development, we need them to shift; we need them to focus on other things than making it easier to take our resources,” she says. “Part of getting us as a global community moving toward that direction is being a stopgap toward extraction.”

Source: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/13e3df31f933e564?compose=13e3d42dd205f2f5

Tribe says LePage threatened Passamaquoddy over elvers during ‘enraged’ phone call

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

Link to Article

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage issued an ultimatum to the Passamaquoddy Tribe on Monday morning: Play by the state’s fishing rules or face consequences from his office, tribal officials said.

According to a Passamaquoddy official who sat in on a phone call from the governor, LePage threatened to withdraw support for issues of importance to the Passamaquoddy — including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a possible casino in Washington County — during a brief call with tribal leaders Monday morning.

Newell Lewey, a member of the Tribal Council, said he and several others sat in on the call, which LePage made to Chief Clayton Cleaves. LePage told the tribe he’d make good on those threats if they didn’t stand down on their claim to authority over tribal members’ right to harvest elvers.

“Gov. LePage also threatened he would shut down the entire fishery,” Lewey said Monday evening, quoting a letter sent by the tribe to Senate President Justin Alfond informing him about the phone call.

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, confirmed that LePage had spoken with Cleaves on Monday, but said she could not comment on the specifics of the conversation because she wasn’t present for the call.

“The governor is gravely concerned about this issue,” Bennett said Tuesday. “We have state law that is very clear and we have a Passamaquoddy Tribe that is knowingly issuing more than double the number of licenses that are allowed.”

She continued, saying, “In regard to what some are calling threats, the governor has the responsibility to ensure that the law is followed.”

March 12 legal opinion by Attorney General Janet Mills was made available Tuesday in which Mills backed up the state’s authority over tribal fishermen.

Lewey said there was no mistaking LePage’s intent or anger, describing the governor’s message as “loud, enraged and demanding.”

“He’s going to try to hold us hostage, that’s what he’s going to do,” Lewey said. “I was in there. I heard it. I heard his tone. There was no mistake.”

Rumors also swirled in Augusta on Monday that LePage had threatened to call in the National Guard, though Bennett said there was no indication that guardsmen would be called in to enforce the state’s rules on elver harvesting.

The dispute began last week when DMR announced that it would invalidate all but 150 of the 575 elver licenses issued by the tribe. A new state law limits the number of elver permits available to the Passamaquoddy to 200 — 150 permits to set fyke nets anywhere in the state and 50 permits to use dip-nets in the St. Croix River.

Keliher said the Passamaquoddy had put the state out of compliance with rules imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Enforcement of the law began March 31, and Keliher said any Passamaquoddy fishing with a permit number higher than 150 would be issued a summons and have their nets confiscated.

For its part, the Passamaquoddy say they aren’t backing down. Lewey said that even if he wanted to, the chief couldn’t back down because the Joint Tribal Council — which represents Passamaquoddys in Indian Township and Pleasant Point — had already spoken.

“The chief of the tribe is acting on a Joint Council Resolution, shaped by the people of the tribe, and the council voted unanimously, all 12 council members, to support the elver fisheries management plan,” he said. “The chief cannot override that.”

On Sunday night, there was a confrontation between tribal leaders, backed up by a crowd of Passamaquoddys, and Maine Marine Patrol in Pembroke. State police were called to backup DMR’s effort to enforce its rules and ultimately Keliher, who was on scene during the incident, agreed to hold off on issuing summonses, but nets were still confiscated.

Keliher later told legislators in Augusta that the police involved in the Sunday incident had become fearful for their safety because of the number of Passamaquoddy protesting their action.

At least three summonses have been issued to tribal fishermen, though DMR has not returned calls for comment, so the total number of summonses issued is unknown.

Fred Moore III, a former Passamaquoddy representative to Augusta and a member of the tribe’s fisheries committee, said attempts to strip indigenous fishing rights would only result in more tribal fishing.

“They can come and take a couple of us to jail, and 300 more will join in.” he said Monday.

The sovereignty dispute has grown hotter by the day, with the Passamaquoddy attacking the state’s elver management plan and touting the superiority of its own conservation techniques.

Lewy said the state’s effort to protect the elver population by limiting the number of licenses was inferior to the tribal management plan, which instead sets a total allowable catch limit of 3,600 pounds.

“The idea that we have jeopardized the entire fishery for the state is an outright lie,” Lewey said Monday night. “He [Keliher] keeps coming back to that number, that 150 or 200 licenses, but it doesn’t really matter because at 3,600 pounds, we’re shutting down, whether we reach that in early April or mid-May.”

The lucrative elver season runs from March 22 to May 31. Last year, harvesters netted 19,000 pounds of the juvenile American eels and were paid nearly $38 million for their catch. Individual fisherman sometimes received more than $2,000 per pound.

Regardless of whether the tribe’s management plan is superior, Bennett emphasized that the Passamaquoddys are not in compliance with the law on the books.

“There were no concerns like this brought up during the legislative process, albeit it was a relatively quick process,” Bennett said, referring to the rule passed in March that limited the number of Passamaquoddy elver licenses. “It’s very clear that the tribe is defying state law.”

While the Passamaquoddy seem to have drawn a line in the sand over the elver issue, Bennett said the governor hoped a resolution could be found before the dispute escalates further.

“We hope the lines of communication remain open,” she said. “The governor has a background of trying to improve tribal relations. He would hate to see this issue jeopardize that relationship.”

BDN reporter Robert Long contributed to this report. Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at@riocarmine.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story stated that Attorney General Janet Mills released a legal opinion on the jurisdiction dispute on Tuesday. While the opinion was released on Tuesday, it was dated March 12, 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.

Dividing the State: Proposed East-West Corridor Affects Washington County

Link to Original Articleby Hillary Savage | Machias Valley News Observer | January 19, 2013
A highway bisecting Maine, running from Canada in the East, to Canada in the West has brought much concern from the people of Maine. Ranging from environmental concerns, economic and business, to quality of life and property rights, the proposed East-West Highway by Peter Vigue and Cianbro has already divided the state.An informational hearing, coordinated by Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) was held in Eastport on Friday. Darryl Brown, Cianbro’s Program Manager for the East-West Highway project presented to the audience a slideshow about the project, where it stands now, and ways that the company is taking concerns into account through the planning stages.

 

“We’re trying to be as transparent at this point,” Brown stated at the start of the meeting. “I’m passionate to say that this project is going to happen, needs to happen and will happen.”

Citing young people as the biggest export of Maine, Brown and Cianbro are confident that a highway will bring economic opportunity that will bring young people back to the state. The business he expects to be along the highway, however, include gas stations, mainly Irving (a Canadian company) as well as distribution centers for large business, such as Wal-Mart that will be along the proposed trade route.

The concept of global trade, and the urgency put on the need to “get up to speed and accept it” is something that was stressed at the meeting. Container ships which are the most effective, efficient, cheapest and widely used form of transportation of goods around the world are now causing the expansion of the Panama and Suez canals. These canals are the highways for global trade, and Brown and Cianbro are of the opinion that with Eastport having the deepest water of any port on the East coast, a highway running nearby is a clear solution to the economic problem.

Two young women, both Maine residents seemed most concerned with the quality of life issues that would come with the building of the highway. Meg Gilmartin, who lives in Corinth attended the meeting, saying that the proposed highway would run two miles from her property, and there has been no public meeting held in her town about the project. “Maine is full of strong, small communities and a healthy environment. This will destroy both,” she stated.

Chris Buchannan of the group Defending Water for Life in Maine said, “Maine’s greatest assetts are the people and the environment. It is why people have stayed and lived here for so many years. This would ruin the culture and environment that make it possible for people to live here to have that quality of life.”

E/W Alert! Drug Forfeiture May Lead to Seizure of Township 37

In 2009, there was a huge pot bust in Washington County.  Then just last week, federal prosecutors in Maine said that they may seize most of Township 37.  There is additional land in surrounding townships that may also be seized, pending the outcome of this case.

About 5 miles of this land goes along the Stud Mill Road, and lies dead on the proposed East-West Corridor route.

Here are links to several news stories:

Drug Forfeiture May Lead to Seizure of Township, Jay Field, MPBN

Documents show path that led to massive Maine pot bust, David Hench, Kennebec Journal

Man killed self days before he was to testify about pot farm, Judy Harrison, BDN

Big drug bust, high stakes in Down East Maine, Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald

Four charged in 2009 Washington County pot bust, WCSH 6

Six Charged in Township 37 Marijuana Grow Case, DEA

E/W Alert! Drug Forfeiture May Lead to Seizure of Township 37

In 2009, there was a huge pot bust in Washington County.  Then just last week, federal prosecutors in Maine said that they may seize most of Township 37.  There is additional land in surrounding townships that may also be seized, pending the outcome of this case.

About 5 miles of this land goes along the Stud Mill Road, and lies dead on the proposed East-West Corridor route.

Here are links to several news stories:

Drug Forfeiture May Lead to Seizure of Township, Jay Field, MPBN

Documents show path that led to massive Maine pot bust, David Hench, Kennebec Journal

Man killed self days before he was to testify about pot farm, Judy Harrison, BDN

Big drug bust, high stakes in Down East Maine, Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald

Four charged in 2009 Washington County pot bust, WCSH 6

Six Charged in Township 37 Marijuana Grow Case, DEA

Passamaquoddy moving ahead to build Bottling Plant

DW4L was alarmed to find out that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Leaders have returned to the idea to tap one of the largest aquifers in Maine, and build a bottling plant.  Under the guise of creating jobs, the Tribe now faces even more exploitation, if they give up the rights to their water.  In addition, the proposed plant is located dangerously close to the proposed East-West highway, ensuring exploitation by the global market.

Link to TV news report: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/191127/2/Water-water-everywhere-job-creation-in-Washington-County

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A team of geologists has made a discovery that could create 150 jobs in Washington County: a 1,000 acre aquifer with 22 untapped, bubbling springs.

The aquifer is on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s land in Indian Township.

Tribal leaders are hoping to tap into that aquifer to manufacture Passamaquoddy Blue bottled water.

Geologists with A.E. Hodsdon Engineering said the aquifer has so much water, the tribe could tap 1 million gallons a day.

“We can probably take out 10 times that amount volume,” said Al Hodsdon.

“But you couldn’t bottle that much water, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Hodsdon has called it the “Saudi Arabia” of fresh ground water, and said test results qualify the water as “above excellent.”

Members of the tribe said they have always known about the natural resource, but never knew how much water sat below the ground.

After consulting with Hodsdon and a developer, Mike Dugay, the tribe is moving foward with plans to develop the plant and manufacture the water.

Economic development consultant Harold Claussey, Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, has forecasted that the plant would create between 60 and 80 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs.

“This is something that we’re really hoping becomes a reality,” said Indian Township Economic Development Director Ernie Neptune.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe reports an unemployment rate of 65 percent.

“With a 60 plus unemployment rate in this area, it’s going to be a blessing,” said Neptune.

It’s the poorest part of the poorest county, where surrounding Washington County towns report unemployment rates as high as percent.

But there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding this project.

“I think a lot of people want to see it before they believe it,” said Passamaquoddy Karen Sabattis.

In the last decade, the tribe has attempted several projects to create jobs and boost the local economy: a natural gas line terminal, a racino, and a lumber company.

All three projects failed.

But project developers, geologists, and tribal government leaders think it’s going to be different this time around.

“So you’ve got great quality, great quantities, and great opportunity for Washington County, and certainly for the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Indian Township,” said Dugay.

The tribe needs to secure $22 million in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can build the bottling plant.

If that funding comes through, the tribe hopes to have the plant up and running by 2013.