October 30, 2013

Letters to the editor: South Portland ordinance’s impact on business debated

Readers weigh whether the proposal will benefit or undermine waterfront firms and fisheries.

My home, since fourth grade, has been on the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth line. I have been a lobsterman for the past 32 years who feels he’s got to to speak out about the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

click image to enlarge

Spring Point Ledge Light, foreground, and Bug Light, rear center, stand on either side of the oil pipeline in South Portland. On Nov. 5, South Portland voters will decide whether the city should restrict new development of petroleum-related industry on its waterfront.

2013 File Photo/Gabe Souza

To give you an idea of what the South Portland “working waterfront” is really like, let me give you some figures: For last year’s fishing season I spent $21,640 for bait, $8,246 on fuel, $4,800 for wharfage, $16,678 for crew and $13,000 for insurance, maintenance and hauling, for a total of $64,364. And I am just one of a lot of guys pouring that much or more into the economy.

Of course, this is just a drop in the bucket compared to ExxonMobil’s bottom line, but consider this: All the money I spend fuels a local economy. All the money I bring in from the sea is ecology friendly, renewable and available for future generations.

Moreover, in the event of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy (and we get hurricanes here), any breach in the infrastructure of a pipeline carrying tar sands oil would be a disaster for our fisheries.

Previous spills in our bay and harbor have been bad, but could be cleaned up. A tar sands spill will leave no “cleanup” opportunity. Our fisheries would be kaput.

On Nov. 5, South Portland citizens have a choice between protecting this precious, renewable resource that Mother Nature has provided, or making a lot of money for a big corporation. Seems like a simple choice to me. Please vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Greg Griffin

Cape Elizabeth

The Portland Harbor Commission has been charged with regulating navigation and commerce within Portland Harbor since being established by the Legislature in 1917. It includes two members from South Portland, two from Portland and one appointed by the governor.

A major part of our charge is to “investigate and determine, as far as practicable, what improvements may be made to the harbor to make it safer and more advantageous for navigation and commerce.” Therefore, we are compelled to comment on South Portland’s proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

South Portland’s marine industry is a significant regional economic engine and provides critical energy infrastructure supporting the harbor and a level of commerce that was responsible for the development of the cities the commissioners represent.

The record shows the Port of Portland is one of the safest ports on the East Coast. This is in large part due to the continuing expansion of these facilities to enable the upgrading of safety and environmental equipment.

The ordinance threatens the viability of the entire industry, as it applies to all South Portland waterfront businesses in the Shipyard and Commercial Zone that handle any type of petroleum and essentially restricts development. The WPO would also impact marinas and boatyards that handle fuel, as the proposed ordinance states there “shall be no expansion of ... facilities for the storage and handling of petroleum.”

One facility recently asked the commission to defer their permit application for the expansion and upgrade of their dock lines until after the November vote. This expansion would upgrade and improve the environmental safety of the entire operation. It is hard to understand how any ordinance that precludes this type of upgrade could be perceived as “protecting the waterfront.”

We ask residents of South Portland to carefully review the proposed ordinance. We believe that when they do, voters will conclude that the WPO is not good for the working waterfront or the city of South Portland.

Thomas W. Dobbins

chair, Portland Harbor Commission

Portland

Well done, Big Oil. You’ve certainly gotten the message confused. You’ve distorted what we in South Portland think we are voting about.

My neighbors now think that the Waterfront Protection Ordinance will end up restricting all business on the waterfront. This is misinformation and is not true, and it distracts us from the issues that we should be talking about.

We should be talking of your plans to send tar sands oil over 50-year-old pipes across the Northeast, and your plan to install two smokestacks in our harbor to process the oil and stink up the air near our beautiful Bug Light.

So, well done, Big Oil. You’ve succeeded. At least so far. I’m hoping that most of us can see through your tactics and will vote “yes” for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on Nov. 5.

Voting “yes,” we’ll be in good company – as some approving the WPO are Mayor Tom Blake, state Rep. Terry Morrison, state Rep. Scott Hamann, state Rep. Bryan Kaenrath, state Sen. Rebecca Millett and Dave Owen, University of Maine School of Law professor, among many others.

Vote for the WPO! Keep our waterfront air and water clean of tar sands pollution!

Margo Donnis

South Portland

I’m a local business owner, and I have to say, this “tar sands” hysteria that a few overzealous locals are peddling, backed by special interests nationally, is wrong and misguided.

If we pass the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, we’ll see in the future just how wrong it will be, but unfortunately it will be too late, as the local working waterfront and great local taxpaying, community-supporting businesses will be decimated by this job killer.

It was ironic to see some South Portland businesses sign on to the WPO bandwagon. How many of them heat their homes or shops with oil? How many drive autos? How many want immediate police action when something goes wrong? If we pass this WPO, we are going to lose jobs, we’re going to lose revenue, energy costs will go up and local services will suffer.

I’m angry at the deception that WPO proponents spin each day, and I’m fed up with special interests from away trying to end our working waterfront. Enough is enough.

Up until now, I’ve been part of what I believe to be a silent majority of South Portland residents watching this debate unfold with growing concern. I can’t be silent any longer.

A vote for the WPO would be another nail in Maine’s economic coffin and would be devastating for South Portland.

Let’s come together and say “no” to this hysteria and prove that we are an independent-minded community. Let’s not get caught up in the emotions of “tar sands” when the WPO has nothing to do with tar sands.

This proposal will be very costly and within 10 years will cost Maine thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. I am voting “no” on the WPO. Please get the facts at www.nowpo.org and join me.

Anthony Barrasso

South Portland

 

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