EASTPORT, Maine — A permitting problem that held up $7 million in federal funds for Maine’s ports at Eastport and Portland, was cleared this week and the funding should be released immediately, according to Maine’s congressional delegation.
The funds were part of a $14 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — TIGER — grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that was awarded eight months ago to upgrade the infrastructure at three ports in Maine.
Another $7 million in the package for Searsport is still being withheld because of a “Buy American” requirement in the agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation and Maine had been holding up the process since February. Searsport needs to buy a mobile harbor crane that is not produced in the U.S.
According to John Henshaw of the Maine Port Authority, all three projects were part of one grant request, and as such the funding for all three was held up.
But the USDOT announced this week that it will allow the projects at Eastport and Portland to proceed while Searsport seeks a waiver. Moving those projects ahead is critical, especially at Eastport, since the state has a short construction season. The Eastport project requires blasting and drilling, which now can be accomplished before winter sets in.
The three ports and their projects are:
ä $2 million will go to Eastport for a warehouse, conveyer equipment and storage pad.
ä $5 million to the International Marine Terminal in Portland for capacity and infrastructure improvements to improve access to the pier and cargo-handling capability.
ä $7 million to Searsport for investments in a heavy-lift mobile harbor crane and cargo-handling equipment.
“These TIGER grants were designed to put people back to work,” U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a prepared statement. “The last thing we want is government paperwork preventing critical infrastructure initiatives, like the ‘Revitalizing Maine’s Ports’ project, from moving forward and creating jobs. I am delighted we were able to find a way to cut through the red tape, so that Mainers may get back to work on such a vital project.”