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Document Type

Comment

Abstract

Searsport is home to the second-busiest industrial port in Maine. Imports include heating oil and road salt and come from as far away as Africa. Situated at the mouth of the Penobscot River and linked to northern Maine and Montreal by rail, Searsport’s Mack Point Marine Intermodal Cargo Terminal (hereinafter “Mack Point”) is a significant international trade hub and source of jobs in Maine’s Midcoast Region. Since 2000, a plan to deepen the harbor around Mack Point has stalled. Supporters of the plan, including business groups, argue that deepening the harbor, or dredging, is necessary to increase and streamline the flow of cargo to the port. Opponents, however, like lobstermen and environmentalists, are concerned about the potential consequences of dumping large amounts of dredged sediment into Penobscot Bay; especially when that sediment may be contaminated by mercury, creosote (a known carcinogen), and other harmful pollutants. After fifteen years, the uncertainty surrounding the dredging of Mack Point has created disharmony in Maine communities and hindered stakeholders’ ability to plan for the future. Prompted by the important environmental and economic issues at stake in the Mack Point dredging project, as well as the absence of finality that does a disservice to both sides in the debate, this Comment explores the regulatory framework in which dredging occurs in coastal New England with an eye toward improving Maine’s dredging laws. As a foundation for later discussion, Part II offers a primer on the dredging process. Part III summarizes federal dredging laws and touches on the disposal of dredged material. Part IV discusses selected dredging laws in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine for comparison purposes. Part V concludes with analysis and recommendations for Maine’s dredging laws.

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