BANGOR — The Maine Legislature is getting involved in a dispute over which county can claim a string of coastal islands.

Waldo County officials say a 70-year-old mapping error led to nine small islands being considered part of Knox County, and the mistake has been repeated in the decades since then, the Bangor Daily News reported.

“The mistake just kept getting perpetuated and everybody believed it. So all we’re trying to do is get it resolved,” Waldo County EMA Director Dale Rowley told the newspaper. “We’re just trying to correct the record.”

Work on resolving the matter stalled during the pandemic, Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart said, but it resurfaced because of a bill from Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, that aims to clarify the border.

A legislative committee this month instructed the two counties to try to reach an agreement on the facts. A meeting between the counties is tentatively scheduled for early February.

The islands are considered part of Maine’s Unorganized Territory. Only one of them, Lasell Island, has any buildings on it.


Despite appearing on the map as being in Knox County, Waldo County receives about $3,000 from the state for property taxes collected on the islands each year.

The islands make up the southern end of the Islesboro archipelago. Islesboro, a town comprising Islesboro Island and several smaller islands, is part of Waldo County.

“These islands were always a part of Waldo and then some guy in 1941 draws a line in the wrong location and the error, the mistake, has been carried forward ever since,” Rowley said.

Such island disputes happen, but they’re rare.

Both Maine and Canada claim Machias Seal Island, which has led to fishing disputes. A battle between Maine and New Hampshire over Seavey Island went to the U.S. Supreme Court, with a victory for Maine.

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