Decisions about developing renewable energy in Maine require accurate information. The Alliance for Sears Island, a coalition of individuals and organizations, supports developing an offshore wind port at Mack Point and opposes doing so on Sears Island, if any such facility is to be built in Penobscot Bay.

Three of our members served on the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group, established by the Maine Department of Transportation. The group’s process revealed that the primary options for a wind port are Mack Point or Sears Island. The members of the group did not reach a consensus as to which was best.

Port construction costs are essentially equal based on current MDOT estimates: Mack Point, $460 million; Sears Island, $470 million. MDOT also acknowledges that the corporation manufacturing, assembling and launching turbines at the offshore wind port will pay a lease fee, whether at Mack Point or Sears Island. Those operating costs will ultimately be borne by ratepayers.

Further, the MDOT construction cost estimate for Sears Island includes $0 for mitigating environmental damages incurred when building the port. At least 20 acres of subtidal and intertidal marine habitats will be destroyed, and more severely altered, by building and using a port on Sears Island. Clearcutting more than 75 acres of the island’s forest and bulldozing more than 1 million cubic yards of soil to level the port will destroy freshwater wetlands, streams and vernal pools. Statutorily required mitigation costs to construct the port on Sears Island are expected to be enormous, not $0. Mack Point, an industrial port for more than 100 years, is not a pristine natural place that will incur even slightly comparable mitigation costs.

While some dredging will be necessary to repurpose a portion of Mack Point for the offshore wind port, the volume of dredged material is not yet known. Designs for the Mack Point port changed during the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group process and the dredge volume greatly diminished. Sprague Energy’s Jim Therriault informed the group’s June meeting that further refinement of the Mack Point plan could reduce dredging volume even more.

Further, there are numerous ways to ensure that dredging limits risks to the health of the bay.

The decision to build at Mack Point or Sears Island must compare the environmental risk of limited and well-managed dredging at Mack Point versus the irreparable, permanent harm to a wide range of ecological services provided by Sears Island, such as lost or degraded habitat for commercially and recreationally important fish, shellfish and lobsters, birds and other wildlife as well as carbon sequestration. Mack Point, already industrialized, does not provide those ecological benefits.

The 2007 Sears Island Planning Initiative agreement clearly stipulated (1) no harvesting soil anywhere on Sears Island and (2) “Mack Point shall be given preference as an alternative to port development on Sears Island.”

Mack Point and Sears Island, located about 3,000 feet apart across Long Cove, are both in the Alliance for Sears Island’s backyard. We simply say that the offshore wind port should be put in one part of our backyard — where an industrial port can repurpose obsolete infrastructure and underutilized areas with a renewable energy facility — and not destroy the part of our backyard that offers outdoor recreation, ecological services, environmental education, natural habitats and scenic splendor.

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