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


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

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