State & Local

River Dams in Maine, Future NOT Clear Flowing

Activists in Maine advocate shutting down river dams, at least for a few months. The Atlantic salmon run, from mid April through early June, is severely hindered by the use of river dams. According to Ed Friedman, the spokesman for Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, these salmon are on the verge of extinction on the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers and dams used to power hydro-electric turbines slaughter nearly half the passing salmon on their expedition to the ocean.

The dams in question are located in Brunswick, Waterville, Skowhegan and Fairfield Maine. These dams are used to help produce electricity for surrounding power grids. However, shutting down the turbines will only have a minimal impact on the energy production because of the many other alternative energy resources available in today’s power grid.

River dams have been here in Maine for hundreds of years, primarily used as a means to create electricity. Dams are also used to regulate water level and fish population on the river. The first dams were much more primitive than that of today, severely limiting the ability of fish to migrate amongst their natural paths. In recent years, new dams have been designed with special fish ladders and fish lifts.

We need to find a compromise where we can still keep the dams for additional electricity production but not limit the migration patterns of a keystone species in the local ecosystems.

Originally, dams were a necessity to power the mills and plants nearby. Today it’s not the case; technological advances enable even the most remote of factories to have a reliable and constant flow of electricity.

If we eliminate river turbines and replace them with alternative energy stations such as solar panels we can have all the advantages of having river turbines, creating electricity to supplement the local power grid and at the same time there won’t be any of the negative impacts on local animal species.

The Atlantic salmon are a very important animal to the ecosystem in the rivers of Maine and to those in the surrounding area. People don’t understand the full effect of eliminating one species and what the impacts include. “Salmon are important to the local ecosystem; they are a major food source for animals such as the bear. Eliminating salmon will not be very good for the Maine rivers health”, said Elmer DeForge, studying Conservation Law Enforcement. The health of the rivers in Maine impacts the health of surrounding ecosystems as well. They all are interdependent on each other.

Fortunately today, some dams are being removed due to the undeniable environmental impacts they have on their surroundings, such as the Edwards dam in Augusta Maine. The future of river dams here in Maine and the survival of the Atlantic salmon is at the mercy of the federal judge and where they stand on the issue. The citizens of Maine need to advocate helping stop the slaughtering of one of our keystone species here in Maine!

-Arthur Nerzig

Maine’s GMO Labeling Bill: A List of Ingredients

MAINE – How would you like to eat an eel-salmon hybrid? Support farmers selling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and you can do just that. How would you like to eat an eel-salmon hybrid without knowing that’s what you’re eating? Don’t support labeling GMOs and you can continue to do just that.

This is the argument that a coalition of organic farmers and political leaders in Maine are making in favor of passing LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock, slated to move through this spring’s legislative session, according to State Representative, Brian Jones of Freedom, Maine (D), one of the bill’s 123 co-sponsors.

“It’s real simple, people should know what’s in their food,” said Jones when asked why he supports the bill.

Genetically modified foods, which according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) website, are crops engineered to contain DNA from different organisms than themselves to speed growth and enhance yield, make up over 75% of all processed foods found in supermarkets today. The five major genetically altered crops are corn, soy, sugar beets, canola, and cotton, according to the MOFGA website.

The bill, which “requires disclosure of genetic engineering at the point of retail sale,” according to its text, resides in the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, and found its way into the legislative process through its original sponsor, State Representative Lance Harvell of Farmington (R). Also according to the bill’s text, exemptions to the disclosure requirement include restaurant food, alcoholic beverages, and medical food.

In order for the labeling mandate to become effective, the bill says that five other states or a state with a combined population of 20 million people or more also have to adopt similar legislation.

To help the legislation pass in Maine MOFGA has spearheaded a campaign called Right to Know GMO, which is aimed at educating consumers on what GMOs are, and at helping constituents make contact with representatives who have already signed onto the bill as a co-sponsor.

“Reliable, peer-reviewed scientific data on the health and environmental  impacts of genetically engineered foods do not exist and until they do, I think people have a right to choose to avoid GMOs in their foods due to this uncertainty,” said Jessie Dowling, one of Right to Know GMO’s lead organizers.

Both Dowling and Jones point out that there are labeling mandates for arbitrary ingredients like food dye, and neither could offer explanation on why GMOs should be any different.

Once the bill moves out of Committee into the realm of public hearings Dowling suggests that citizens who want to see it pass should contact their legislators, write a letter to the editor of their local paper, and/or discuss the implications of LD 718 with attended groups like knitting circles or local churches.

According to Jones public hearings allow citizens to submit either oral or written testimony, which he says people will show up to submit if they want to see this legislation pass.

-Sass Linneken

Recycling Mandate Headed For Trash

AUGUSTA – The Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted in a meeting earlier this month to construct a bill aimed at scrapping a five year old mandate on cell phone retailers to collect used devices at no cost to customers.

The proposition for the bill came from the Department of Environmental Protection’s Director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Melanie Loyzim.

According to the DEP website, the mandate on retailers put in place in January of 2008, requires all cell phone distributors in Maine to take back used phones at no cost to customers for the purpose of recycling. Similar laws exist in both New York and California.

According to a report obtained by the DEP’s Sustainability Unit, over 144,000 used cell phones were collected by service providers in the first four years following the mandate’s inception. This number does not include collections from independent retailers, or the number of devices collected in 2012.

In an article that appeared in the Portland Press Herald, the law is said to be aimed at protecting the public and the environment form poisonous toxins exposure resulting from improper disposal of used cellular devices. Former Representative, Christopher Babbidge who sponsored the original bill, was quoted in the article as saying he was in favor of creating a law that will hold those who profit from distributing cell phones responsible for the waste they create.

The same law includes a provision that bans consumers from disposing of their used cell phones by throwing them in the trash. The DEP did not mention striking this part of the law.

During the committee meeting, Ms. Loyzim stated that because of a strong market for refurbished phones, the requirement on retailers is “no longer necessary to incentivize recycling.”

In response, Council member Representative Janice Cooper (D) said, “The fact that [the program] is working is not a good reason to dismantle it…if it ain’t broke I don’t think we need to fix it.”

Council member Representative Paul McGowan (D) expressed concern regarding the possibility of a market shift.

When asked what benefit the DEP sees in removing the mandate on retailers, Ms. Loyzim stated that it was an “opportunity to remove a regulatory provision.”

-Sass Linneken

Eleven Towns Respond to Unity Fire

Unity – A major fire did serious damage to an apartment building at 178 Main Street in Unity on Saturday, February 16. None of the occupants were injured.

Dennis Turner, Unity Fire Chief, said that the fire department received a call about the fire between 10:30 and 11:00 in the morning, and the fire department responded immediately.

Dennis Turner said, “As the day went on, we saw the fire was going to run awhile,” so the Unity Fire Department called for county-wide mutual aid. He said that eleven towns within Waldo County responded with firemen, including Montville, Pittsfield and Albion.

Turner said that a chimney fire is thought to have started in the furnace room of the apartment building. He said that it spread through the barn and into the apartments.

According to Turner, the building was an old house that had been converted into apartments. He said that the partitions “made it very difficult to fight the fire.”

Turner said that when the fire reached the attic, it was difficult for the firemen to fight it because of the insulation in their way.

No one was hurt in the fire, said Turner. He added that the firemen escorted two women out of the building.

According to Turner, the Red Cross has set up housing for the two women.

Turner said that he would like to thank all of the businesses in Unity that provided support to the firemen. “Almost every business in town provided food, cocoa, (or) hot coffee,” he said.

Ted Swanson, Unity resident, said that he became aware of the fire happening down the street from him between ten and eleven o’clock on Saturday. He said that his attention was drawn by the fact that fire trucks began passing.

Swanson said he was a volunteer fireman in Waterville in the 1960s and ‘70s.

He said that when he looked down the street, “There was nothing but a column of black smoke.”

Swanson said, “I haven’t seen so many towns respond (to a fire) since I’ve been here” – over forty years.

Swanson noted that it was “lucky there was no wind,” or the fire might have spread to other buildings.

“It’s kind of unusual to have a structure burn that hard and that fast,” he said. “It seemed like stuff (inside) would kind of explode.”

“A fire like this kind of hits home,” he said. “Things like this don’t happen in a small town that often.”

-Julia Clapp

Activists in Maine advocate shutting down river dams, at least for a few months.  The Atlantic salmon run, from mid April through early June, is severely hindered by the use of river dams. These salmon are on the verge of extinction on the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers and dams used to power hydro-electric turbines slaughter nearly half the passing salmon on their expedition to the ocean.

The dams in question are located in Brunswick, Waterville, Skowhegan and Fairfield Maine. These dams are used to help produce electricity for surrounding power grids. However, shutting down the turbines will only have a minimal impact on the energy production because of the many other alternative energy resources available in today’s power grid.

River dams have been used here in Maine for hundreds of years, primarily used as a means to create electricity. Dams are also used to regulate water level and fish population on the river. The first dams were much more primitive than that of today, severely limiting the ability of fish to migrate amongst their natural paths. In recent years, new dams have been designed with special fish ladders and fish lifts.

A Unity College student studying Parks and Forests Resources said “We need to find a compromise where we can still keep the dams for electricity production but not limit the migration patterns of a keystone species in the local ecosystems”.

Originally, dams were a necessity to power the mills and plants nearby. Today it’s not the case; technological advances enable even the most remote of factories to have a reliable and constant flow of electricity.

An anonymous Sustainable Energy Management student at Unity College said that “…if we eliminate river turbines and replace them with alternative energy stations such as solar panels we can have all the advantages of having river turbines, creating electricity to supplement the local power grid…at the same time there won’t be any of the negative impacts on local animals…”

The Atlantic salmon are a very important animal to the ecosystem in the rivers of Maine and to those in the surrounding area. People don’t understand the full effect of eliminating one species and what the impacts include. “Salmon are important to the local ecosystem; they are a major food source for animals such as the bear. Eliminating salmon will not be very good for the Maine rivers health”, said Elmer DeForge, studying Conservation Law Enforcement.

Fortunately today, some dams are being removed due to the undeniable environmental impacts they have on their surroundings, such as the Edwards dam in Augusta Maine. The future of river dams here in Maine and the survival of the Atlantic salmon is at the mercy of the judicial system and where they stand on the issue.

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