For the better part of two centuries, Calais, the St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay annually saw thousands of ships traveling our waterways in international trade of lumber, fish, leather, shoes, cotton and other goods manufactured in the mills and factories that dotted our shorelines.
I’m not just talking ancient history. I grew up in Red Beach on the river and remember watching the oil tankers in the 1970s carrying Bunker C and diesel fuel for the paper mills in Baileyville.
Even today, container and cargo ships regularly enter Head Harbor Passage headed for Eastport and the Bayside International Marine Terminal on the Canadian side of the St. Croix River.
The Calais LNG proposal is being developed with intense scrutiny from the federal and state governments and the U.S. Coast Guard. It will include many protections and safeguards for the environment.
The location of the proposed LNG terminal and dock is in a sparsely populated area and will primarily be visible only to boat traffic on the river.
You will not be able to see it from Route 1 and very few residents in the area will have a view of it. When completed, this project will have an impact on less than 2 acres and its presence will have a minimal effect on our landscape.
There are people who oppose this project based on the idea that it will adversely impact the environment and hurt tourism in this area. But they are ignoring reality.
First, we are an international waterway. Shipping is part of our culture. It always has been. Calais and mostly likely more towns on the St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay came into existence because of the river.
Second, LNG shipping will not exclude other activities. Some of the busiest ports in the world, including Boston Harbor, have had LNG terminals for decades. The reality is that we can have LNG and still boat, fish, sightsee, and recreate on the St. Croix River, Passamaquoddy Bay and Head Harbor Passage.
LNG ships wouldn’t be any different than the massive cargo ships that haul fertilizer and other goods to the Bayside terminal now. In fact, LNG is nontoxic, insoluble in water, and lighter than air. It is actually less of an environmental hazard than some of the goods on the water today (and is much safer and cleaner than oil).
I believe most tourists would enjoy seeing the LNG ships. They already enjoy the other big ships that come in. And most of the tourists that come nowadays are either passing through to somewhere else, or they are our family members who live outside of Washington County because they cannot survive here. I know many people who would love to move home but can’t because there are no opportunities here.
I want my children to be able to live in Washington County. They should not have to move away and become a tourist that comes home for a week or two every year. I want to be able to help raise my future grandchildren and watch them grow.
Many years ago, Calais was a booming town whose very existence depended on the St. Croix River. We did not have the rules and regulations in place to protect our environment that we have today at the federal and state levels.
I firmly believe that the Calais LNG project will provide many benefits to this area with minimal disturbance to our environment.
Mary Barnett of Calais works at Calais Regional Hospital.