Letter from the Town Manager of Cumberland to Harpswell

 
February 28, 2004

Harpswell Board of Selectmen
263 Mountain Road
P.O. Box 39
Harpswell, ME 04079

Re: Written Testimony ­ Fairwinds LNG Project

Dear Board of Selectmen:

On behalf of the Town of Cumberland, I wish to express our concerns with the proposed Fairwind Project in Harpswell. The Cumberland Town Council has taken no formal position on this project and fully supports the authority of the Board of Selectmen to undertake a public process on behalf of its residents.

The decision before you is a difficult one. In response to the State's looming budget crisis and the erosion of outside funding, this project might be eagerly seen as the "Property Tax Relief" panacea for any community. As Town Manager, I admit I would toil extensively to weigh the competing effects of such a project.

As you are aware, we are an island neighbor to Harpswell. Cumberland's population includes Chebeague Island's 350 year round residents. Nearly 75 Chebeague Island lobstermen and fishermen earn their livelihood in the waters off Harpswell. The underlying economy which supports those fishermen includes marinas, the local store, and trades such as mechanics, boat builders, and other related services. The fishing industry has served as the stronghold of Chebeague Island for generations.

Cumberland's concerns are due primarily to a lack of information and participation related to this project. We fully understand this hearing to be only the first step in the process, but our initial step is taken in the dark. We urge you to spearhead a process to incorporate communities who are wholly or severely impacted, as is the case with Cumberland.

With that in mind, we respectfully request your assistance in the following ways:

  • Extend the same financial protections to non­resident fishermen whose livelihood is dependent on the waters in or near the shipping lane of the LNG tanker.
     
  • Devise a process to compensate fishermen who may incur damages as a result of the LNG tanker or pipeline.
     
  • Produce a schedule for the construction of the pipe line. The Chebeague Island Transportation Company (CTC), a for-profit entity, is responsible for transporting 140,000 passengers annually to and from the island. The CTC also provides barging services to its residents and businesses. These fees represent a critical component of the companies operating revenues. A decrease or suspension in the barging activities would force the CTC to increase passenger rates in order to remain viable.
     
  • Consider the transportation schedule of the CTC vessel service. The pipe line installation will conflict with the passenger service. A schedule which recognizes the CTC services will avoid passengers being stranded on the mainland or island. Coordination of hours is also critical with regard to rescue services, as the CTC also serves the island ambulance.
     
  • Perform an environmental impact study which specifically addresses the impact of the gas line upon the fishing industry. The study should include, at a minimum, the effects upon lobster migration and the impact to crustaceans and other fish population if these pipes are laid on the ocean floor.
     
  • A guarantee of protection of the underground telephone and power lines from the mainland to Chebeague Island.
     
  • Development of an evacuation plan.
     
  • Assess and define the need for training and/or equipment for our volunteer Firefighters.

 

With this project outside our direct control and without firsthand knowledge of the LNG application, it has been difficult for me and the elected officials to respond to the onslaught of questions from our residents. We believe strongly that good government must provide accurate, timely responses to its citizenry in order to maintain trust and confidence. To date, Cumberland's information has been limited to second-hand news at best. This scarcity of information has only served to exacerbate the burgeoning demand for facts and input.

The Town of Cumberland extends our best regards as you deliberate this important matter. If the LNG Plant is approved, we respectfully request the opportunity to collaborate as neighbors in order to dialogue our issues with you. We hope you will acknowledge the significant impact to the citizens of Cumberland if you choose to move forward with this project and issue a response to these significant concerns.

 

Sincerely,

 

William R. Shane
Cumberland Town Manager