Finding the balance in Penobscot Bay Industrialization

Finding the balance in Penobscot Bay Industrialization
By Richard Nelson,  3/24/14 Pen Bay Pilot
As a lobsterman here locally for 30 years and also a member of Maine’s Advisory Group for Regional Ocean Planning, I have been following much of the information and articles on the proposed Searsport Harbor and channel dredging project.

Of those recent articles I found of interest was Ethan Andrews “Commercial Navigators See Obvious Need for Searsport Dredging, No Guarantees.”

In it was a statement made by retired tugboat captain John Worth in what I imagine to be his response to the level of opposition to the project, that “It almost seems like it’s a cultural thing… like it’s about industrialization.”

I find this statement rather interesting. It’s exactly why I’ve become involved in regional ocean planning; that is, the choices between our cultural heritage along the coast of Maine, and the industrialization of our ocean (along with ocean health in general). It would seem that this choice should be part of any and all processes leading to decisions on projects affecting the Bay, with stakeholders and citizens being able to voice their concerns, if not directly voting. One of those exercise in democracy sort of things.

The trouble here is that we have the maritime and fishing industries, two of the oldest cultural elements in Maine, at odds over this issue. These groups have previously always settled issues amongst themselves, but those discussions may prove to be time-honored relics of the past under the magnification of today’s informational age.

We are also not the only stakeholders in this. A myriad of others could and should have concerns with both the health of Penobscot Bay and our cultural identity in this area, including the amount of industrialization we find acceptable.

Throw in a few heavy metals and the recent closure of part of the Penobscot River to lobster and crab fishing, and we’re really confronted with quite a challenge here.

But neither the fact that opponents find these added elements so serious in nature with such far reaching consequences, or that proponents expound on the economic benefits and added safety gains in shipping, should negate our right to have some choice in the direction we wish our culture to go and the amount of industrialization we’d like to see on our ocean.

Richard Nelson lives in Friendship.

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