Offshore wind energy is critical to the future of Maine. It is a necessary step in growing our economy and a crucial piece of meeting our obligations to reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Sears Island, on right, is one of several sites being considered for a port to support the offshore wind industry in the future. David A. Rodgers/Staff Photographer, File

Before turbines can begin producing clean energy, Maine needs to establish a port to assemble these offshore wind components and ship them out to the Gulf of Maine. This is an important step in the process, and a decision needs to be made soon.

To that end, Gov. Mills has established an Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group to inform the Department of Transportation in its evaluation of potential port sites: Eastport, Sears Island and Mack Point. The advisory group is comprised of local officials, conservation groups, labor, a port operator, the Maine Chamber of Commerce, the maritime and fishing industry and former legislators.

It’s important to us, as members of this group, to lay out the process, facts and deliberations that characterized the work of the advisory group and the recommendations made by its members.

First, Sears Island is the least expensive site to develop. The costs to modify and operate the two existing ports at Eastport or Mack Point would be nearly double the cost of Sears Island. Specifically, while the estimated cost to develop Mack Point and Sears Island are roughly the same ($400 million-$500 million), the additional, necessary costs to lease and clean up the Mack Point site are estimated at $300 million-$500 million. This would bring the cost for the Mack Point site close to $1 billion when all is said and done.

Second, any development at Mack Point would involve dredging more than 500,000 cubic yards from Searsport Harbor, which would need to be disposed of at sea. The entire advisory group, even those most critical of the process, recognize the risk that both the act of dredging and the disposal of the materials pose to the health of Penobscot Bay. Development of a port facility on Sears Island would not require such dredging.


And third, all of the sites considered are either operating ports (Eastport and Mack Point) or specifically designated as a potential port location (Sears Island). Some critics have claimed that Sears Island should never be developed as a port site, but a settlement between the state and some of these very groups says exactly the opposite.

As with any group comprised of a broad range of interests and experience, there was not unanimity of positions or reactions among this advisory group. Robust discussions and constructive feedback were critical parts of the process.  For example, a number of members urged the state to add representatives of the Wabanaki Tribes to the advisory group, especially in light of the impact to the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sepayik and the Penobscot Nation’s history of use of Sears Island. This omission is one that state officials ultimately moved to redress, although much work remains on that front.

That said, it is important to recognize that the recommendations made by each of the members of the advisory group are just that – advice for the Maine Department of Transportation to consider in choosing its preferred site for an offshore wind port. While the majority of the advisory group recommended using Sears Island for such a port, either on its own or in combination with Mack Point, the final decision will ultimately be made by the MDOT. The decision will then be subject to the very public and transparent process of obtaining the necessary state and federal permits. In short, there remains “many a slip between the cup and the lip” when it comes to permitting, developing and operating an offshore wind port.

Maine has a clear opportunity here to grow our economy while also meeting our legal obligations to transition from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy created by harnessing the winds of the Gulf of Maine. It’s an opportunity to make the move from NIMBYism to YIMBYism. And as we all know, Maine Won’t Wait.

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