As a young fisheries biologist for the state from 1957-1969, I spent a lot of time studying brook trout populations and their habitat. Back then, there were few environmental laws and little in the way of regulatory protections; we have made great progress since those days.

Brook trout thrive in cold water streams, which are plentiful in Maine, particularly in the commercially managed forest to the north. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, brook trout can be found in more than 22,000 miles of streams and 1,200 lakes and ponds.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Protection will ensure that the 53 miles of new overhead transmission lines, proposed for western Maine by Central Maine Power in its New England Clean Energy Connect project, does not harm this important resource. I support the project because I know that fisheries and wildlife habitat will be protected or mitigated.

Consider this: Thousands of miles of logging roads transect the commercial forest and span cold water streams. These are dirt roads that cause sedimentation during significant rain events. Yet brook trout populations are healthy, and no one is lobbying to stop commercial logging.

Maine’s 4,000 miles of transmission lines cross countless cold-water streams without harming brook trout. How is a 150-mile transmission line most, of which is parallel to an existing line, going to harm this magnificent species, when thousands of miles of roads and power lines haven’t done so?

Central Maine Power’s Maine Power Reliability project crossed 820 streams, according to the permit, many of which supported cold water fisheries. Did you hear anything about threats to brook trout while that project was getting permitted? I didn’t, and I was paying attention.

Maine’s brook trout are a potent symbol of wildness and healthy ecosystems. If you have ever caught one, you know the awe it inspires.

And the most serious threat to brook trout is warming waters. As the climate heats up, so do streams and lakes.

I support the NECEC project because it will reduce warming from greenhouse gas emissions. Opponent’s claims about irreparable harm to wildlife habitat are based on fear, not science. The science is clear: If warming continues at its present rate, we will lose more than brook trout.

All of us who care deeply about the environment need to start pulling in the same direction. The NECEC will remove over 3 million metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere a year. Calling those results environmentally damaging, as Ron Joseph asserted in his op-ed on Dec. 17, just plays into the hands of the fossil fuel interests who this month admitted they are supporting the opposition to NECEC.

Every day we wake up to a new report about the catastrophic effects of climate change. Fighting the NECEC only brings those predictions closer to reality. We can save our natural resources by using resources close at hand to phase out the fossil fuels that have caused this crisis.

As the former executive director of Maine Audubon, I built the first solar and wood heated public building in New England, and as commissioner of the Department of Conservation, I brought the biomass energy industry to Maine to reduce our dependence on oil.

Later I worked on wind power projects, and now we have even greater potential for clean energy from offshore wind.

Solar power has boomed all over the state, and our neighbor to the north has massive unused hydropower resources we can use reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Let’s use all these resources to battle climate change. Fossil fuel emissions are the enemy, not NECEC.

Richard B. Anderson of Portland is a freshwater fisheries biologist and a former commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation.


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