WERU Dredging Interviews with Amy Browne, 2/19/14:
Segment 1: It was announced yesterday that the Maine Department of Marine Resources is closing an area near the mouth of the Penobscot River to lobster fishing, for at least 2 years, due to mercury contamination. But nearby there are plans underway to dredge up highly contaminated sediment near Mack Point to expand the depth of the channel there from 35 to 40 feet. Testing done as part of the permitting process has revealed a long list of carcinogens and endocrine disrupters in the sediment. And plans to dump the roughly 1 million cubic yards of that toxic sludge elsewhere in Penobscot Bay have lobstermen’s associations, town councils and state representatives very concerned. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that an informational meeting about the project, to be held Monday, is slated to be held in Bangor, in the evening, rather than in one of the coastal communities at a time when the island ferries are running.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: DEFECTS IN THE CORPS’ 4-5-2013 FSEA ON DREDGING MACK POINT
In May of 2012, the Corps of Engineers issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) in conjunction with granting a permit to fill wetlands to construct a 22.7 million gallon LPG storage tank and marine “import” terminal at Mack Point, in Searsport, Maine. In that EA, the Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard determined that “no dredging was required” in the channel to Mack Point, in Searsport , Maine, for 4-8 LPG tankers per year, with an anticipated draft of up to 39.7’, to safely make deliveries of LPG to this proposed facility and to offload their cargo at the pier over 36 to 48 hour periods of time.
However, on April 5, 2013, the day after the Searsport Planning Board denied local permits for the construction of that proposed LPG facility, the Corps released its draft Feasibility Study – mandated by a July 26, 2000 Congressional Resolution — and asserted that a million cubic yards of contaminated dredge needed to be removed to deepen the channel at Mack Point, because the controlling depths in the Searsport Harbor navigation channel “are inadequate for the existing and future vessel traffic.” FSEA 30-Day Public Notice, p. 1 (emphasis supplied).
The Maine Department of Transportation is the non-federal partner with the Corps in this proposed dredge-and-dump project, although the intended beneficiaries of this project are identified by the Corps as Sprague Energy and Irving Oil, two foreign-owned corporations, engaged in the oil and gas industry.
Specifically, the purpose of the dredging project identified by the Corps is: to improve the existing Federal navigation project for Searsport Harbor at Mack Point, Searsport, Maine to accommodate the deep draft vessels that use the existing terminals at the port. This improvement will reduce the transportation costs incurred by shippers due to tidal delays and light loading of vessels.” 30-Day Public Notice, p. 1. In an attempt to justify the unprecedented “improvement” dredging, the April 5th 30-Day Public Notice asserts that: Since completion of the State Pier and upgrades to the petroleum terminal, the size of ships calling on Mack Point/Searsport Harbor has increased. As a consequence, the existing controlling depths in the Searsport Harbor navigation channel are inadequate for the existing and future vessel traffic. 30-Day Public Notice, p. 1.
There is no record evidence to support these contentions in the FSEA. Indeed, no data is provided on the characteristics and number of ships calling on the port of Searsport after 2008 in the FSEA, despite the fact that energy markets in this country have undergone a sea-change in operations since 2008 and, as a result, imports of petroleum products (which comprise more that 75% of Searsport landings) have dramatically dropped as the U.S. has become a net exporter of some petroleum products. Further, the FSEA contains no assessment, of the adverse consequences of this proposed dredging, and the dumping of almost a million cubic yards (cy) of dredge spoils (including highly contaminated dredge spoils), in prime commercial fishing areas that for the past twenty years have produced more than 30% of the total Maine lobster catch.
This project is nothing more than the resurrection of a dredge-and-dump proposal originally made by the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2000. The 2000 proposal was scuttled after Penobscot Bay lobstermen and local officials raised serious concerns about the adverse impact such a dredge-and-dump project would have on the Maine lobster industry – in which Pen-Bay plays a vital and integral role. The difference between the 2000 proposal and the project detailed in the 2013 FSEA is that now the Corps and DOT propose to triple-down on the original dredge-and-dump proposal, vastly increasing the potential damage that would occur to Penobscot Bay’s environment and economy.
Originally DOT proposed dumping 375,000 cy of dredge materials in the Rockland Disposal Site, and the Corps acknowledged that fully half of the 375,000 cy of dredge material was deemed “unsuitable for uncontained open ocean disposal.” Despite this, in 2000, DOT proposed dumping all of the spoils, including the highly contaminated dredge spoils, into the Rockland disposal site off Vinalhaven and Rockland.
Now the Corps and DOT propose to dump nearly a million cubic yards of material into one or more of three identified dredge disposal sites off Islesboro, Belfast and the Vinalhaven-Rockland. The Sites include: the “Penobscot” disposal site off Islesboro, which was last used to dispose dredge spoils in 1964 when the original FNP at Searsport was dredged (no dredging has been required to maintain this channel since 1964); the Belfast Bay disposal site, which the Corps describes in an attachment to the FSEA as: “…a deep hole and may be the remnant of a methane gas pocket. It is not known if this gas pocket is still active or not.” (FSEA Appendices, p. 5 of 226); and the Rockland disposal site, which the Corps has failed to assess for its continued suitability as a disposal site since September of 2003 (DAMOS 156). The limited core sampling on the dredge material undertaken for the SEA was done in 2007 and 2008 and has not been updated since that time.
To do a maintenance dredge at Mack Point to maintain the channel at the current federally-authorized depth of 35’, only 37,100 cubic yards of material would need to be removed – this amount of material could be disposed upland at a licensed facility at a reasonable cost to taxpayers, without threatening the lobster fishery or endangering the environment or economy of the region.
Although the FSEA references out-of-date core sampling taken in the channel of the Federal Navigation Project (FNP) in 2007 and 2008, on December 23, 2013, Sprague Energy filed an application to do “maintenance dredging” at its 2 docks (bulk and liquids) at Mack Point. Sprague’s State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) application seeks to remove approximately 11,700 cubic yards of dredge material and to dump the dredge spoils in the Rockland Disposal Site. Analysis of the core samples taken in the proposed dredge area around the Sprague piers was attached to that DEP application. The analysis report done for Sprague reveals the presence of high levels (i.e. “above reporting limits”) of a large variety of contaminants, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, toxins and known carcinogens, including but not limited to: pesticides, heavy metals (arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, zinc and nickel), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Although the beneficiaries of the project proposed by the 2013 FSEA are identified as two private corporations, in foreign ownership (Sprague Energy and Irving Oil), the entire cost of the proposed dredging project would be borne by State and federal taxpayers, with Maine taxpayers responsible for at least $3 million and federal taxpayers paying at least $10 million – Sprague and Irving have no obligation to contribute to the cost of this project. The DOT included the $3 million needed for the State of Maine’s initial match portion of the estimated cost in the November 2012 Transportation Bond, under the guise of “port improvements” – thus, they are claiming that the voters have already “approved” this project – even though the bond vote took place 5 months before this Feasibility Study was released and the description of the purpose for the bond on the November 2012 ballot never revealed that the term “port improvements” actually meant dredging.
No direct public benefit is identified by the Corps in the FSEA, other than the overall reduction in “transportation costs” in the nation generally. These are actually transportation costs that Sprague and Irving would otherwise pay (not taxpayers). The Corps projects the National Economic Development (NED) benefit at an estimated $845,000 in transportation cost savings, all of which would benefit Sprague and Irving, in the form of additional profits, without any guarantee of cost savings being passed on to Maine consumers or U.S. taxpayers.
In calculating the supposed NED benefit that this dredging project would generate, no assessment was made by the Corps of the potential costs of this project to other industries (e.g. potential damage to the eco-tourism and lobster industries which are the economic engines that drive the rest of the Penobscot Bay economy and that are the foundations for most other small businesses in the region). Further, because this savings would come in the form of fewer vessel landings by deeper draft tankers, it is also possible that this cost savings to Sprague and Irving would come as a result of a loss of jobs at the port of Searsport, due to the reduced number of vessel landings required for the same amount of oil and cargo shipments — that is after all how the cost savings are anticipated to be obtained. These lost jobs are also not included in the Corps’ calculation as an offset to the claimed NED benefit.
The Corps’ NED calculation is flawed in many ways, including the following specific defects: • The number of vessels with maximum or loaded drafts >35 ft that would be benefited by reduced wait times to berth, as a result of deepening of the channel at Mack Point, is too small (on average 8 vessels per year) to justify the expenditure of $13+ million tax dollars. In contrast, the Portland Harbor is Maine’s largest port. While an average of 325 vessel landings are made annually at Mack Point in Searport (8 of those by vessels with drafts >35 ft), between 2003 and 2011, on average more than 31,000 vessel landings were made annually, in Portland, between 2008 and 2011 – with more than 200 of those vessels having drafts >35 ft (See table below). Yet the Corps has determined that 35-ft is the appropriate depth to maintain the channel in the Portland Harbor. As a result, the Corps is currently preparing to do a maintenance dredge of 700,000 cy of material in Portland to restore the channel depth to 35-ft. If 35-ft is enough for the Portland channel, why is 40-ft required for the channel to the port of Searsport which has only about 1% of the total vessel landings annually that Portland has?!
• The Corps erred in using annual Searsport vessel landing data from 2006 as the basis for the 50-year NED benefit calculations. The year 2006 was an outlier year, both for the use and volume of imports at the port of Searsport and also in U.S. petroleum imports. In 2006, 60% of all petroleum products used in the U.S. were imported – this year had the greatest disparity in consumption versus domestic production of petroleum products of any year since 1970 to present. As a result, during 2006, because the net import rate was 60% of total consumption, and because 75% or more of Searsport Harbor cargo is from importing petroleum products, naturally 2006 had the greatest usage of the port of Searsport. However, using figures from this outlier year as the foundation for the projected NED benefits calculations, for the next 50 years, grossly inflated the benefit. Actual post-2008 data confirm that using the 2006 baseline produced inflated and inaccurate projections of the NED benefit in the FSEA. • The primary use for the port of Searsport is to import oil and other petroleum products for use in the State of Maine. Imports of petroleum products account for an average of 75.7% of all cargo that passes through the port of Searport since 2003. However, as oil imports decline and the energy demand shifts more toward domestic petroleum products, including oil, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas for heating in Maine, the volume of vessel landings at the port of Searsport will also decline, not rise as forecast by the Corps in the 50-year NED projection in the FSEA. • The Corps’ economic benefit analysis also inflated the benefit to be derived by deepening the channel by characterizing all vessels currently arriving with less-than-maximum draft loads, as “light-loaded” solely because of an issue of channel depth. In calculating the NED benefit from reduced wait times, the Corps assumed that all vessels that light-load now will arrive at maximum load draft in the future – allowing fewer trips with deeper draft vessels and no wait-times, saving transportation costs. However, Capt. David Gelinas of the Pen-Bay & River Pilots Association, in his presentation to the Searsport Planning Board, on February 11, 2013, states that: “…the vast majority of petroleum-carrying vessels in Searsport are already arriving significantly lighter than their maximum load draft because of split discharges, or to a lesser extent short-loading…” The number of vessels arriving in Searsport with less-than-maximum loaded drafts, due to split discharges will not change as a consequence of dredging. As the Corps admits in the FSEA: “This practice depends on many factors including market demand and vessel routing concerns, and may continue to occur in the future to some degree regardless of the channel depth at Searsport.” FSEA, Appendix E, p. 9, Appendices, 90 of 226.
Requiring State and federal taxpayers to invest $13 million to deepen the channel at Searsport from 35-ft to any larger depth, so that an average of eight (8) vessels a year do not have to wait for a tide to use the berths to off-load their cargo is not a reasonable expenditure of limited taxpayer dollars. When this de minimis benefit in transportation savings is juxtaposed against the potential adverse impact on the environment and commercial fisheries in Pen-Bay, particularly the lobster fishery – which represents more than 30% of the total Maine lobster catch since 2000 and thus represents at least a $96 million a year industry (in 2012 alone), this project cannot be characterized as a wise or reasonable expenditure of taxpayer funds.
This proposed project will have significant regional, environmental and economic impacts – directly impacting people and businesses in at least twelve Maine municipalities (Stockton Springs, Searsport, Belfast, Northport, Lincolnville, Camden, Rockport, Rockland, Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, and Matinicus Isle Plantation), in two counties (Knox and Waldo). Despite this, the Corps improperly made a FONSI determination (Finding of No Significant Impact) and only issued an Environmental Assessment – not an Environmental Impact Statement. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates that an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted before a project of this nature and scope is undertaken. NEPA also demands that public hearings be conducted in all of the potentially impacted communities in and around Penobscot Bay. To date, since the July 26, 2000 Congressional Resolution, the Corps has not held one single public hearing in the preparation of the FSEA.
The Corps’ New England Office should be directed to undertake an EIS and suspend any further action in furtherance of the recommendations in the FSEA until an EIS and public hearings are completed. In addition, no permits to dispose of contaminated dredge spoils should be issued to any entity, public or private, in Penobscot Bay. A comprehensive assessment of the continued suitability of all three proposed disposal sites in Pen-Bay should be undertaken before any additional dredge spoils are dumped in these sites. Comprehensive assessment of the potential impact of disposal of any dredge spoils, contaminated or otherwise, on the commercial fisheries in Penobscot Bay, with stakeholder involvement, is imperative before any further dredge materials are dumped in Penobscot Bay. Only upland disposal should be permitted until completion of such studies.
SUMMARY OF ISSUES: 2013 PROPOSAL TO DEEPEN THE CHANNEL TO MACK POINT AND DUMP A MILLION CY OF CONTAMINATED DREDGE SPOILS IN PENOBSCOT BAY
1. No contaminated dredge spoils should be dumped in any disposal site in Penobscot Bay. Contaminated dredge spoils must only be disposed upland, at an appropriate hazardous waste facility. 2. No public funding for this proposed “improvement” dredging should be provided prior to a thorough assessment of the potential environmental and economic impacts of this dredging and dumping in the Bay and the need for this project, by conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 3. The Corps’ recommendations in favor of “improvement” dredging are based on inadequate, incomplete and outdated data. All environmental and economic data should be updated to reflect current information and impacts before any project can proceed. 4. The core sampling analysis attached to the recent Sprague DEP application demonstrates the presence of high, unsafe and unhealthful levels of contaminants, including mercury, making them inappropriate for disposal in the Bay. Updated core sampling and testing by the Corps should be done as part of a comprehensive EIS. 5. An increased-level of mercury contamination in Pen-Bay lobsters (which account for a significant amount – at least 30% — of the total Maine lobster catch) could damage the entire Maine lobster brand and severely tarnish the reputation of this iconic and essential component of the Maine economy. No dredge materials containing mercury should be dumped in the bay and no new area of sediment should be disturbed to expand the Mack Point channel area if mercury is present in the sediment. Mercury testing should be done in accordance with the distillation methodology detailed in the expert reports submitted to the federal court in the HoltraChem litigation. 6. The proposed “improvement” dredging would also adversely impact Searsport Harbor and areas critical for the restoration of the Atlantic salmon, short-nose sturgeon, clamming and eel grass necessary for several fisheries to be sustainable. An EIS is needed to fully assess such impacts. 7. In May of 2012, the Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard determined that “no dredging was required” for the proposed addition of 4 to 8 ocean-going LPG tankers a year, with a draft of 39.7’, to service a proposed LPG storage tank and terminal at Mack Point – which would have been the largest such facility on the East Coast of the United States. In light of that determination, no justification exists for this dredge project – which is proposed to facilitate the current tanker traffic to Mack Point – which can service this port without additional dredging. 8. State and Federal taxpayer funds should not be expended for the solely identified purpose of increasing the profits and convenience of 2 foreign oil companies, Sprague Energy and Irving Oil. 9. The voters have never had an opportunity to consider and approve the “improvement” dredging that is now being proposed, since this proposal came out 5 months after the DOT put the innocuous request for “port improvement” funding on the November 2012 Transportation Bond. A specific vote to authorize this project should be required. 10. There has been NO Congressional approval for the increase in the depth of this channel and the more than $10 million in federal funds required for this “improvement” dredging. In the absence of such federal approval and federal appropriations, no State taxpayer funds should be expended by DOT in furtherance of this proposed “improvement” dredging or related port alterations. 11. No State funding exists for the additional dredging at the DOT pier that this ACOE Feasibility Study recommends and contemplate. 12. The NED benefit analysis needs to be redone, using post-2008 data and projections supported by EIA data. The year 2006 should not be used as the foundation for any NED calculations for this project. 13. Only maintenance dredging should proceed at Mack Point, with the 37,100 cy of material that would generate disposed upland at a licensed facility. 14. If 35-ft is deep enough for the Portland Harbor channel, why is 40-ft required for the channel to the port of Searsport, when Searsport has only about 1% of the total vessel landings annually that Portland has?!
I. ISSUE BACKGROUND (Draft)
On April 5, 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Feasibilty Study and Environmental Assessment (FSEA) proposing to undertake a massive “improvement” dredging project off Mack Point, in the port of Searsport, in Searsport, Maine. The Maine Department of Transportation is the non-federal partner with the Corps in this proposed project. The intended beneficiaries of this project are identified by the Corps as Sprague Energy and Irving Oil, two foreign-owned corporations, engaged in the oil and gas industry. “Sprague Energy” is responsible for cargo handling and operations at the Mack Point Intermodal Marine Terminal piers, handling operations at its own piers and the State-owned pier at this facility. Sprague Energy and Irving Oil also operate a fuel tank farm at Mack Point that has approximately 33 fuel storage tanks, holding up to 55 million gallons of various petroleum products.
Specifically, the Corps stated in the FSEA that the purpose of the Mack Point “improvement” dredging project is:
to improve the existing Federal navigation project for Searsport Harbor at Mack Point, Searsport, Maine to accommodate the deep draft vessels that use the existing terminals at the port. This improvement will reduce the transportation costs incurred by shippers due to tidal delays and light loading of vessels.”
30-Day Public Notice, p. 1.
The project outlined in the 2013 FSEA is nothing more than an expanded version of an earlier Mack Point Dredge-and-Dump project, proposed by the Maine Department of Transportation in 2000. The difference between the 2000 DOT proposal and the 2013 DOT-Corps’ proposal is that, now, the Corps, in cooperation with DOT, intend to triple-down on the amount of material to be dredged from Mack Point and dumped in the pristine waters of Penobscot Bay – in the middle of some of the most productive commercial fisheries in the State of Maine and in the United States. Much of these dredge spoils are known to be contaminated with a vast array of heavy metals (including: mercury, zinc, copper, cadmium, nickel, lead and arsenic); PCBs; pesticides; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and other known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and toxic contaminants.
In 2000, DOT proposed deepening the channel at Mack Point from the federally-authorized depth of 35’ to 37’, and dumping 375,000 cubic yards (cy) of contaminated dredge spoils in Penobscot Bay, in the Rockland Disposal Site, off Vinalhaven, North Haven, Rockport and Rockland. In 2000, the Corps acknowledged that fully half of the dredge material that the project would generate was deemed unsuitable for uncontained open ocean disposal because of the high levels of contamination it contained.
Now, the Corps and DOT propose to deepen the channel at Mack Point from the federally-authorized depth of 35’ to 40’, deepening the pier area owned by the Maine DOT by up to 7’, expanding the turn-around area in the port by a third (to areas never dredged before at Mack Point), and dumping nearly a million cy of contaminated dredge spoils in one or more of three identified dredge disposal sites off Islesboro, Belfast, Northport, Lincolnville, Camden, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Rockport and Rockland.
To do a maintenance dredge at Mack Point, to maintain the channel at the current federally-authorized depth of 35’, only 37,100 cubic yards of material would need to be removed from Mack Point. State taxpayers would have no responsibility for the cost of maintenance dredging in the channel to Mack Point – funding for maintenance dredging in the channel would be solely a federal responsibility. And the amount of contaminated dredge spoils removed from the channel and state-owned pier area during a maintenance dredge would be small enough to be disposed upland, in a licensed hazardous waste facility equipped to safely handle such toxic materials, at a reasonable cost.
To do the so-called “improvement” dredge at Mack Point, 100% of the initial $11.2+ million cost would be borne by State and federal taxpayers, with Maine taxpayers responsible for at least $3 million, and federal taxpayers paying the remainder, plus all of the maintenance dredging costs (i.e. the initial federal share is at least $10 million), although the beneficiaries of the project are identified as two oil companies, in foreign ownership (Sprague Energy and Irving Oil). In addition, State taxpayers would be responsible for millions in additional costs over the next several decades – the exact amount of these additional costs have not been revealed, although it will be 10% of the total cost of construction (see footnote 3).
 In a letter to the NH Public Utilities Commission, dated January 27, 2010, a representative from Sprague described Sprague Energy Corp.’s corporate structure and status as follows:
…Sprague Energy Corp. is a privately-held corporation and considers its audited financial statements to be confidential….
Sprague is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Axel Johnson Inc., a member of the Axel Johnson Group of Sweden, a fourth-generation company privately owned by Antonia Ax:son Johnson and family. Through its various subsidiaries, the Axel Johnson Group is principally engaged in the food retail and wholesale, consumer retail, energy, trading, environmental and telecommunications businesses.
The permit “Sprague” filed on December 23, 2013, with Maine DEP, to do maintenance dredging at its Mack Point piers, was actually filed by Sprague Operating Resources LLC, a limited liability company with ties to Sprague Energy.
Irving Oil is a Canadian company. http://irvingoil.com/who_we_are/
Irving operates Canada’s largest refinery, eight distribution terminals, a fleet of delivery trucks and over 800 retail locations serving its wholesale, commercial and retail customers throughout Eastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S. with two corporate headquarters, one in Saint John, New Brunswick, and the other in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
 As stated by the Corps in the FSEA:
The tentatively recommended navigation improvement project estimated first cost is $11,200,000 (Federal program year 2014, effective price level date October 2013). The Federal cost share would be 75 percent and the non-Federal Cost share would be 25 percent of the navigation improvement project cost. Once construction is completed the non-Federal sponsor [the Maine DOT – i.e. more precisely the Maine taxpayers] would be required to pay an additional 10 percent of the cost of construction over a period not to exceed 30 years. In addition the non-Federal project sponsor [the Maine taxpayers] would also be responsible for 100 percent of the cost to deepen the berths, one at the State Pier and one at the liquid pier. The Federal government would be responsible for 100 percent of Federal navigation project maintenance.
FSEA, p. 7 of 196 (emphasis and clarification provided).