Selectmen debate sending letter to Army Corps

By Stephanie Grinnell | Dec 24, 2013

Camden — At the request of Islesboro town officials, Camden selectmen agreed to have Town Manager Patricia Finnigan draft a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting an expanded study of the impacts of dredge from Searsport Harbor on Penobscot Bay.

Selectmen will review the draft letter and approve or deny its sending at the first meeting in January, expected to take place Jan. 7.

Two areas have been proposed for disposal of the dredge — one area between Camden and Rockland near Robinson Rocks and another area between Marshall Cove in Islesboro and Belfast, according to Islesboro Board of Selectmen Chairman Archibald Gillies.

Gillies said he has approached several communities about authoring letters to the Army Corps requesting an Environmental Impact Statement, which is an expanded version of the April 4 Environmental Assessment the Corps issued.

Gillies stressed there is no opposition to maintenance dredging totaling more than 37,000 cubic yards but noted the plan as it stands calls for dredging of 1 million cubic yards. Concerns are centered on ocean life, including lobstering, fishing, swimways for fish, sailing and tourism, he said.

"We're not here to ask you to support or oppose [the project as a whole]. The towns that have sent letters have used neutral language," Gillies said, adding town officials in Islesboro, Rockport, Stockton Springs, Belfast and Searsport have all agreed to draft or send letters.

Responding to a question from Selectman Don White, Islesboro Island Trust Executive Director Steve Miller said the full impacts of the dredge are not yet understood but the planned dredge to deepen the channel near the state pier could have "very significant" impacts of habitat for winter flounder and alewives as well as lobster in both the harbor and dump site.

Selectmen Leonard Looker expressed concern about "the hypocrisy" of Camden dictating where dredge should be deposited when the town harbor was recently dredged and deposited in an unknown location, possibly one of the proposed sites for Searsport dredge.

Gillies noted the reason behind the deeper channel is unclear but Miller noted it has been requested to increase the depth of one channel by 10-feet.

Selectman Jim Heard noted the difference between Searsport — a commercial harbor — and Camden —  a recreational harbor — and said toxins in the dredge are unknown. Gillies said an EIS would reveal that type of information.

Selectman John French was the only member to speak in favor of the dredge, citing an increased opportunity for commercial traffic and economic benefit.

"This is one of the few deep harbors we have," he said. "I'm really supportive that the harbor needs to be dredged."

Gillies agreed there could be an argument made for economic development.

There is no start date officials are aware of, Miller said, though the comment period has passed. He said rumor had the dredging beginning in 2014. Funding from the Maine Department of Transportation is already in place, Miller said.

No members of the public weighed in on the topic before selectmen began discussions. Ultimately, selectmen authorized a neutrally-worded draft letter to be considered at the next meeting, with Heard calling sending a letter “a no brainer.” French was the only vote opposed.

Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email

Comments (3)
Posted by: Barry King | Jan 04, 2014 21:24

Selectman Heard should note that with a boat yard, a dozen commercial passenger vessels, commercial fishing vessels and the various revenue generating dock spaces (many of which are owned by the town) it would seem that Camden has both commercial and recreational purposes. The "spoils" from the most recent maintenance (winter '13) at the head of the harbor were brought ashore. The spoils from the previous "Corps" dredge (winter 02/03) that included Rockland and Belfast were released at the former "DG" dumping ground buoy well east of Rockland at the mouth of the bay. I recall concerns regarding the impacts to commercial fisheries then. I worked on one of the tugs in Belfast and it was a long haul to bring dredge spoils to the "DG" buoy. At the time I understood that dumping ground to be relatively low impact. I would be interested to compare environmental impact statements (EIS) between the proposed inshore locations and the EIS prepared for the 02/03 Corps dredge project. As a commercial vessel owner in Camden I appreciate any efforts to dredge navigable waterways but I am a little perplexed by the choice of the proposed dumping area between "Marshall Cove, Isleboro and Belfast" as outlined in this article. Is there a more precise location in the proposal for the area "between Camden and Rockland near Robinson Rocks"?

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Dec 27, 2013 08:31

By all means dredge the harbor. Increase the opportunity of cruise ships docking and bringing in more foot traffic to Camden. One cannot get through Camden traffic now, foot or other. For years I have taken bypass roads around downtown Camden in the summer and will for sure continue. Although I know shopping there is fun but there are other towns more easily accessible to shop and park.

Mickey McKeever

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Dec 24, 2013 19:36

Jim Heard refers to Camden Harbor as being recreational not commercial. Well I think the dozen or so men and women who fish/lobster out of the harbor may feel differently.  But the commercial lobsterman really has not been considered a viable contributor to the town for many years.

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Stephanie Grinnell
(207) 236-8511 ext. 302
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Stephanie has served as editor of Camden Herald since its return in April 2012.

Previously, she was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has worked a number of years in the newspaper business from southern Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and two chickens.

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