BANGOR – The Maine Board of Environmental Protection held a hearing in Bangor on Thursday to get the public’s input on proposals to increase water quality protections for portions of the Penobscot River and around a dozen other waterways.
Not everyone is happy with the new proposals.
“The Penobscot and Millinocket Stream abuts the mill site and what we’re afraid of is it will have a negative economic impact on us being able to develop the site because it would limit the amount of people or the amount of business that we can entertain to come on that site,” said Michael Madore, a Millinocket Town Council member.
When Great Northern Paper closed, Millinocket was devastated economically. The city recently purchased the 1,400-acre mill site and has plans to redevelop it in order the bring back jobs.
“We expect there will be some resistance” to the proposals, said Don Witherill, Maine
Department of Environmental Protection division of environmental assessment director. “Up in Millinocket, there used to be a paper mill that discharged there. It no longer is there but they still own a license and they would still want to be able to attract new industry to come in.”
Town leaders believe that the new protections would hurt redevelopment.
“It would tie our hands tremendously,” Madore said. “It would limit what we could do, you know. Right now we’re a blank page.”
Others at the hearing — including several Penobscot Indian Nation members — were all for more protections.
“The data our Natural Resources Department in the tribe has shown that we’ve been able to maintain the higher level anyway, so it makes sense to go ahead and make it official so that we don’t take any steps backward in the cleanness of the water,” said Maulian Dana, a tribal ambassador for Penobscot Indian Nation.
The Board will vote later this year about whether to send the proposed changes to the Legislature, which has the final say in if they are adopted.