The Vinalhaven Board of Selectmen have followed in the footsteps of many legislators and several other town boards in asking the Army Corps of Engineers to further research the environmental impact of the proposed Searsport Harbor dredging project.
At the selectmen’s meeting on Feb. 18, Islesboro’s board chairman Arch Gillies and Islesboro Islands Trust Executive Director Steve Miller asked our board to send a letter to the Corps requesting an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Searsport Harbor Navigation Improvement Project. The $12-million project would deepen and expand the harbor’s entrance channel and turning basin in order to accommodate larger cargo ships. Almost 900,000 cubic yards of sediment would be removed from around Mack Point, with an additional 37,000 cubic yards dredged for maintenance. The silt would be dumped at a disposal area off of Islesboro or another site between Rockland and North Haven.
A concern for many in the Penobscot Bay area is that fuel spills and industrial runoff have contaminated the sediment around Mack Point with mercury and other toxins. It is unknown how that much polluted material would affect local fisheries and nurseries where it is dumped — including prime lobstering grounds — which an EIS could examine if conducted.
Vinalhaven Town Manager Marjorie Stratton drafted a letter requesting an EIS last week after the majority of the board voted to sign. They join Islesboro, Isle au Haut and North Haven, as well as many legislators and other project opponents who have signed and submitted letters of concern.
Another issue affecting lobstermen is more potential rope rules. A recent Bangor Daily News article has been circulating about new restrictions for vertical fishing lines, which would help prevent whale entanglements. Fishermen were forced to change their gear back in 2009 when float rope had to be replaced with sinking rope.
The new proposed measures include banning single traps to reduce the number of vertical fishing lines, as well as implementing a traps-per-trawl minimum (based on distance to shore and time of year) and prohibiting fishing in areas where whales congregate during the winter months, according to the article. The BDN also reported that federal officials plan to publish the new regulations this summer, but many hope this will be delayed until next year to avoid transitioning gear during the main lobstering season. Issues like this, including how colored rope could be used to avoid whale entanglements, will be addressed at this weekend’s Maine Fishermen’s Forum at The Samoset Resort.
In other politics, Vinalhaven Republicans caucused last weekend on Feb. 24, while Democrats plan to caucus on Sunday, March 2 at 2:15 p.m. at the town office. The purpose of the caucuses is to form party committees from Vinalhaven with officers, elect members to join the Knox County committees and choose delegates to attend each state convention. Both conventions will be held at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor later this spring; the State Republican Convention is scheduled for the weekend of April 25, while the State Democratic Convention will be held May 30 and 31.
In sports news, the Vinalhaven Vikings lost their quarterfinal game Feb. 18 to the Forest Hills Tigers, who went on to win the girls Western Class D regional title. Focus now turns to baseball, with Little League tryouts scheduled for Sunday, March 2, at 12:30 p.m. at the school gym. The Vinalhaven Ravens will play a 14-game schedule this year and are hoping to return to the playoffs to avenge the tough loss they endured during last year’s championship.
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