Maine Eyeing Sears Island for Port Again

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933
Steve Miller [IIT] (207) 734-6907
Rolf Olsen (FOSI) (603) 443-0011


Maine Eyeing Sears Island for Port Again

Advocates Caution that Demonstration Wind Project Does Not Require Destroying Island Gem


Boston, MA — A coalition of environmental groups who favor wind energy warn that a proposed port on Sears Island would face insurmountable legal constraints as the State of Maine eyes the undeveloped island for a logistical hub for floating offshore wind facilities. The coalition contends that the state already has access to an industrial port at Mack Point that could service a future wind farm, just across Long Cove from Sears Island, one of the largest undeveloped islands remaining on the Eastern Seaboard.

The coalition includes Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Islesboro Islands Trust (IIT), Friends of Sears Island (FOSI), and Sierra Club Maine. These groups have played various roles in thwarting attempts over the past 40 years to develop Sears Island. The coalition points out that developing Sears Island –

    • Requires federal determination that doing so is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative, a finding that is both highly unlikely and subject to challenge if made;
    • Entails federal permits to authorize destroying protected wetlands and harming sensitive species. Failure to obtain any single permit would preclude the entire project; and
    • Will be much more expensive, demanding mitigation that may not compensate for the loss of special aquatic sites.

“We all favor renewable energy but fighting climate change does not require destroying the very resources we are trying to save,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Trying to overcome the legal, practical, and financial barriers to develop Sears Island will be like tilting at windmills.”

The coalition believes that the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has signaled its preference for Sears Island as a future port. They note that crews have already cut trees and cleared a path on Sears Island for geotechnical drilling and testing, indicating that MDOT believes Sears Island is a realistic location for the port.

“An internal MDOT memo from 2021 obtained by IIT through a public records request, identified Sears Island as the ‘primary site’ for floating offshore wind port development,” said IIT’s Miller. “The process of choosing a site cannot be predetermined. It is critical to note that MDOT concedes the proposed offshore wind facility could be built at nearby Mack Point.”

FOSI’s Olsen reports that Sears Island has become increasingly recognized for its outstanding recreational and education offerings, attracting more than 34,000 visitors during the summer of 2021, an increase of almost 20% since 2019. “Sears Island is a true economic and tourism engine for this part of the Midcoast Region of Maine, as we see more people from around the U.S. and even from several other countries,” he added.

Sears Island is a unique mosaic of uplands, wetlands, and vernal pools, with acres of eelgrass, amid an invaluable intact marine ecosystem. Currently, the island is used for low-impact recreation and is a popular destination for hiking, biking, fishing, birdwatching, and boating, as well as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other seasonal activities.

“While we support offshore wind, siting this industrial development on Mack Point seems to be ecologically superior based on what we know now,” said Sierra Club Maine’s Matt Cannon. “Sears Island is a uniquely important place to conserve, and with each passing day, our special places are being developed and destroyed. We will continue to support our offshore wind industry and advocate to develop on Mack Point and protect Sears Island,” he added.


Read the coalition letter to Maine DOT

See PEER’s previous involvement in Sears Island
East Coast’s Largest Undeveloped Island Slated for Cargo Port (March 17, 2008)
Maine’s Sears Island Port Plan Slammed (April 1, 2009)

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