Battle Begins over who can work on Offshore Wind Energy Projects
Maine’s largest construction contractors say they fear being shut out of work in the state’s nascent offshore wind industry because of a pending labor agreement between the lead project developer and trade unions. At issue is an agreement being negotiated between New England Aqua Ventus and the Maine Building and Construction Trades Council on the role of skilled labor in building a demonstration floating offshore wind turbine near Monhegan Island. That arrangement, called a project labor agreement, would set terms and conditions for employing workers from trade unions on the project. But more broadly, it could set a precedent for work and hiring rules for hundreds of future jobs that clean-energy advocates hope will emerge in offshore wind.
Listening for Sharks
The Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Great White Shark Research Team installed two acoustic receivers in the water late last year, one off Bailey Island and then another near Popham Beach State Park. They chose both locations because that’s where the seals are, a white shark’s favorite food. This year, the DMR will install 20 or more acoustic receivers up and down the Maine coast to collect even more data on the status of great white sharks. While white sharks haven’t been all that common off Maine, more and more are making their way here as the water warms in the Gulf of Maine. When an acoustic receiver receives a “hit,” the Atlantic Great White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity App will then inform its users where and when the hit took place.
Can Oyster Shells De-Acidify Clam Flats?
In April researchers and volunteers laid out 120 plots of crushed oyster shells on a tidal flat in South Portland, near the mouth of the Fore River as it flows into Casco Bay. The experiment will test whether oyster shells collected from restaurants can be used to reduce the acidity of tidal flats and restore shellfish production. Over the next several months, the shells will dissolve; scientists will measure the impact the shells have on the pH of water in the mud. Softshell clams struggle to develop in tidal flats where the mud has a higher pH. The experiment is being conducted by the Downeast Institute, with $99,180 in federal funding through the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and the Climate Ready Estuaries Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Project partners include the Maine Coastal Program, Gateways to Opportunity and Bigelow Labs.
Scientist Nominated to Head NOAA
The Biden Administration has nominated Rick Spinrad for Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Spinrad is a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University and the former chief scientist for NOAA. The nomination comes as NOAA is amidst the longest period without a Senate-confirmed administrator since its creation in 1970. Former President Donald Trump had nominated Barry Myers, the former CEO of AccuWeather, to the position in 2017, but Myers ultimately withdrew from consideration. Spinrad is an oceanographer with decades of experience. He retired from NOAA in 2016 after being appointed Chief Scientist under President Obama. Spinrad had been the head of NOAA’s Research Office and the National Ocean Service and co-led a White House committee on developing the country’s first set of ocean research priorities.
Lobster Goes Glamorous
A new partnership between the lobster industry’s marketing group and a Kennebunkport hotel aims to promote the crustacean’s popular appeal as well as the industry’s sustainable practices. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) and the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel introduced the “Maine Lobster Suite,” which features a guest room with lobster-themed décor and furnishings such as lobster trap rocking chairs and Grundens fishing bibs. Guests also receive a hotel package that includes lobster-themed menus and a lobster cruise, and various promotional perks. The promotion takes place from May 26 to Oct. 3. MLMC executive director Marianne LaCroix said that the idea to create a lobster-themed hotel suite came about before the pandemic erupted last year. The aim is to generate positive stories about Maine lobster in consumer lifestyle publications. The lobster suite promotion first garnered online articles in Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure. Both of those articles then were picked up on several Yahoo! sites, including its news and entertainment sites, among others.
Mass. Lobstermen Protest Closure
Forty Massachusetts lobster boats took part in a boat parade protest in early April to bring attention to Massachusetts’ current closure of virtually all of its state waters to commercial lobstering as a protection for North Atlantic right whales. The boats were primarily from Gloucester, Manchester and Rockport, Massachusetts. Lobstermen are upset about the statewide closure, which requires them to remove all traps and other gear to lessen the possibility of entanglement with right whales as they migrate through Massachusetts waters on their way north. In 2022, the closure will run from February 1 to at least May 1, and possibly to May 15, depending on the presence or absence of right whales in state waters. The new state regulations also include specific gear requirements, including new lines that break away at 1,700 pounds of pressure and a maximum buoy line diameter of 3/8-inch. The gear requirements will go into effect this month.
Lawsuit Seeks to Open Access to Intertidal Zone
Benjamin Ford, a partner in the new Portland-based law firm Archipelago Law, filed a lawsuit in April in an effort to overturn a decision made three decades ago by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in what is known as the Moody Beach case. That decision, Ford said, was a “historical mistake” that “locked away thousands of miles of the Maine coast.” “The Maine Supreme Court’s decision in the so-called Moody Beach cases has led to nothing but confusion, conflict, and ridiculous litigation over whether seaweed is more like a worm or a tree,” Ford said in a statement. “This mess was created by lawyers and judges and it needs to be fixed by lawyers and judges.”
In 1989, in Bell v. Town of Wells, the state’s top court ruled that the only public rights recognized in intertidal areas are those that were outlined in the original Massachusetts colonial ordinance: fishing, fowling and navigating. That means beachfront property owners along Maine’s coasts have property rights all the way down to the low-tide area, except for an easement to allow the public to engage in those three permitted activities