EASTPORT, Maine — Federal permit amendment approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that could save the port of Eastport a half million dollars may not come in time, officials said, despite a fast-tracked approval by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
“Meeting the time line may be improbable,” Port Executive Director Chris Gardner said Saturday. “It’s looking rather sad.”
The port is in the middle of an $8 million expansion to install a cargo conveyor system. During construction, amendments were filed to allow the port to add a new warehouse and container yard, which would necessitate filling in some minor wetland areas. The permit amendments before Army Corps include allowing installation of a new conveyor system for exports and imports, and a large storage warehouse to accommodate the increased business from Woodland LLC and the increased number of shipments of livestock overseas.
Gardner said that if the Army Corps permits could be approved quickly, while the construction company was still on site, $500,000 could be saved by not having to remobilize the construction company.
On Friday, DEP Director of Education and Outreach Samantha DePoy-Warren said the DEP part of the permitting process will likely be completed and approved by next week. “Approval is expected next week when the mandatory 20-day public comment period is complete,” DePoy-Warren said. “Our agency literally reviewed the permit as quickly as legally possible.”
The problem, however, now lies with the Army Corps, which has not completed its review and is now requiring the port to pay a $30,000 impact fee that goes into a fund tapped by both state and federal governments to complete wetland mitigation work, although not specifically at the port.
“We are working with the Army Corps because of the port’s proximity to the ocean,” Gardner said. “The Army Corps takes priority when it comes to salt water. It is an interesting part of the rule.”
He added that the port was most appreciative that the DEP moved the applications forward as fast as it could.
“We are going to try to keep working through, but the opportunity for that extra expansion may be lost,” he said. “It is too bad because the costs may be too large to restage the construction company at a later date.”
Gardner said the current work, being completed by T. Buck Construction of Corinna, will be completed in several weeks.
“It will be challenging,” Gardner said. “What we are ultimately looking at here are jobs and the ability to put people to work. The impact fees, which between the Army Corps and the DEP are $100,000, are shocking, and that money could be better used creating jobs.”