Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will pay more than $18,600 to build a fish passage on the Sheepscot River to settle environmental violations it committed during a major expansion two years ago.

The Boothbay-based nonprofit was cited by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2017 for building structures without approval and filling wetlands, a breach of the state’s Natural Resources Protection act.

President and CEO William Cullina said the nonprofit violated the rules because it didn’t want to wait to get state approval for minor changes to its work plan. At the time, the DEP was so backlogged it would have taken more than a year for authorization, he said.

“We were in an active construction project, we had to keep going,” Cullina said.

At the time of the construction in 2017, there was a lengthy appeal process to the gardens’ construction plan, and the organization submitted a number of changes to its original design that slowed down the approval process, Maine DEP spokesman David Madore said.

“These events, which were outside of the department’s control, delayed staff ability to proceed with processing the minor alterations to the site plan,” he said in an email.

A pathway at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald File

The $18 million expansion included a new visitors center, parking and entrance road, plus stormwater controls and underground utilities.

“We realized we were technically doing it without a permit, but nothing that was destructive environmentally,” Cullina said.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens completed a restoration plan submitted after inspectors found the issues. It also will pay $18,629 to the Atlantic Salmon Federation to complete a modification of the Head Tide Dam in Alna, about 20 miles north of the gardens.

Money from the agreement with DEP will help fund improvements to the Alna dam to allow more fish upriver and add a viewing platform and interpretive signs. The project is part of a long-term plan to improve fish migration on the Sheepscot River, said Andrew Goode, vice president of U.S. programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The project is expected to start in July, Goode said.

“We have the vast majority of funds, this was one of the last pieces of the funding puzzle to put it all together,” he said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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