The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933; Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Maine's Sears Island Port Plan Slammed

Wetland Mitigation Bank Falls Flat as Gambit for Cargo Container Port


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised "substantial
concerns" and strongly recommends against approval of Maine's plans for
Sears Island., according to correspondence posted today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At stake is the
Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) plan to use the East Coast's
largest undeveloped island as a cargo container port while using the
rest of the island as a wetlands mitigation bank.

In a March 18, 2009 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
which is reviewing DOT's plan, EPA Wetlands and Information Branch
Chief Carl DeLoi laid out fundamental obstacles to Maine's aims -

  • The development of the port undercuts any supposed
    environmental benefits. "The concomitant proposal to reserve 330 acres
    of the island for potential development as a marine cargo port...creates
    a high degree of uncertainty regarding the long-term ecological
    integrity of the proposed compensatory mitigation bank";
  • The
    port would create a host of negative effects, such as "habitat loss;
    noise; lighting; air emissions from ships and vehicles; and storm water
    discharges"; and
  • The mitigation bank makes little sense in that it would create less than two acres of restored wetlands.

"Maine DOT's mitigation bank scheme is a transparently feeble
attempt to get the nose of a very large and smelly camel - a container
port - under the tent flap," stated New England PEER Director Kyla
Bennett, a lawyer and biologist formerly with EPA's New England
Regional Office. PEER is also urging the Corps to reject the Maine DOT
application. "Nothing about this plan protects wetlands. It is merely
offers a pretext for destroying what it purports to preserve."

Part of the concern is that the DOT Prospectus is the first state
application in New England seeking to take advantage of a Bush-era
federal rule authorizing mitigation banking in which wetlands are
destroyed in exchange for preservation of other land or creation of new
wetlands elsewhere. In his letter, EPA's DeLoi alludes to fear that
"this Sears Island proposal presents several concerns that make it a
difficult choice as New England's first potential compensatory
mitigation bank."

"Mitigation banking has a horrible track record to begin with, but
whatever merit it may have would be obliterated by approval of the
approach outlined by Maine DOT," Bennett added. "The best thing that
could happen to Sears Island is that it is left alone."


Read the EPA letter

View the PEER comments

See the Maine DOT Prospectus

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.