August 9, 2013

Wildlife agency OK with Wells Harbor dredging

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is satisfied the project won't harm three endangered shorebirds.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it has no intention of interfering with plans by the town of Wells and the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Wells Harbor.

The agency is satisfied that the project will not harm three species of federally endangered shorebirds, including piping plovers, said Laury Zicari, supervisor for the Maine field office of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Orono.

Zicari said her agency will sign off on the $4 million dredging project by Aug. 20, clearing the way for the Army Corps to put the project out for bids, and for the town to receive $3.5 million in federal aid for the project.

"The birds will be affected by the dredging but the impact will be insignificant," Zicari said Thursday night in a telephone interview. "We are going to say yes, that we agree with the Army Corps."

Zicari, who could not be reached Wednesday, was responding to Wells officials who said that the Fish and Wildlife Service was trying to delay the project by asking for a full environmental impact review.

Selectman Bob Foley said such a delay could jeopardize the $3.5 million in federal aid to help pay for the dredging and make the harbor safe to navigate.

Foley said the project must start by Sept. 15, to give the Army Corps the time it needs to finish dredging before the start of the piping plover's nesting season, in April.

Foley could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Zicari said her agency did not ask for an environmental impact review.

Zicari said Foley is mistaken. "We are dropping everything else to make this project a priority," she said.

In a 17-page report dated Aug. 2, Edward O'Donnell, chief of the Army Corps' Navigation Section, explains why the Army Corps believes the dredging project will not harm piping plovers, Roseate terns and red knot birds.

The Army Corps asks that the Fish and Wildlife Service end the process the two agencies were required to participate in by concluding that the dredging would not hurt the birds.

Zicari said the Army Corps' report, which she read Tuesday, satisfied her agency's concerns.

"The Service is not trying to stop or delay the dredging projects and we have not suggested that they require an environmental impact statement," Zicari said in a prepared statement. "In fact, we believe that the projects will increase sandy beach areas that will benefit piping plovers."

Piping plovers and Roseate terns are federally endangered birds, while red knots are in the process of being listed as endangered. Plovers have established nesting sites on Wells Beach and Drakes Island Beach, while Roseate Terns have been seen in the area.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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