Portland Press Herald
Don't think of it as tons of sand and gravel that Saco employees push around with bulldozers every time a storm pounds Ferry Beach. Think of it as tons of money.
Town officials estimate it will cost them eight thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars to fix five hundred feet of Surf Street and a sand wall damaged by a recent storm. Not that anyone has any delusion that the repairs will last. In 2006, town crews repaired the road ten times.
The proximate cause of the erosion problem is a 6,600-foot jetty the Army Corps of Engineers built in 1896 to protect the approach to the harbor. But protecting the harbor entrance is not a zero-sum game. The jetty has redirected wave force to the north so that, over time, the sea has pushed the shoreline back by four hundred feet and consumed three dozen homes.
The real issue is that the ocean is a fickle mistress. People love to build by her shores, but inevitably they build too close. And the margin of safety, thin as it is in places like Saco and Wells, is narrowing.
U.S. Representative Tom Allen recently reported that the House transportation committee had included $27 million in its budget for the Army Corps to build a series of new breakwaters to try to solve the problem. But in the last century, sea level has risen by almost half a foot in the Gulf of Maine. The Maine Geological Survey projects another 1.5 to 2 foot rise in the coming century. So there may not be enough money in the world to protect the line of oceanfront homes at Camp Ellis and on Ferry Beach.
We can't keep pouring resources into holding back the sea. Eventually, nature is going to take its course. It may not be politically popular, but someone ought to be doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine the point at which pushing money into the water no longer makes sense.Bangor Daily NewsUnreasoned Fears Of Flouride
The public doesn't make decisions about what drugs best manage diabetes or what treatments are most effective for lowering cholesterol. Yet, Maine law allows local voters to decide whether fluoride should be added to their water. This leads to situations like the recent vote in which Mount Desert residents agreed to eliminate fluoride, based largely on warnings from one person. If the state administered the program, with a provision to allow communities to opt out only after scientific information had been presented to voters, the debate and the outcome would likely be more reasoned.
Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and helps reduce decay, has been added to many public water supplies for sixty years. Early critics claimed fluoridation was a Communist plot. Criticism now is that the practice is unsafe, leading to more health problems than it solves. Cost is also raised as a concern, although fluoridation annually costs between fifty cents per person in large cities and three dollars per person in rural areas.
Opponents cite studies that show too much fluoride leads to more bone fractures and increased cases of autism. They frequently point to a 2006 report by the National Research Council, a branch of the National Academies of Science. The report was very careful to differentiate between fluoridation, which is restricted to between 0.7 and 1.2 mg of fluoride per liter of water, and fluoride contamination, which the Environmental Protection Agency limits to 4 mg per liter. More than 170 million people, about two-thirds of the country's population, had artificially fluoridated water but only two hundred thousand people nationwide had drinking water with fluoride concentrations higher than 4 mg per liter.
Even at the extremely high concentrations, the council found that further study was needed to determine whether the fluoride was causing bone fractures or endocrine, developmental, and reproductive problems.
The Centers for Disease Control called community water fluoridation one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century. Fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent and even more among children, with the benefits reaching all socio-economic sectors.
Antigo, Wisconsin, stopped fluoridation in 1960. Five years later, second-graders had a 200 percent increase in tooth decay and fourth-graders had 70 percent more. Residents voted to restart fluoridation in 1965.
Rather than revisit this experience four decades later, Maine communities should have a more sophisticated debate. Having the state require and pay for fluoridation is one solution.Com
munities could opt out after holding a meeting where public health officials were invited to provide information on the benefits of fluoridation.
This is more reasonable than votes based on confusion or misplaced concern.Boothbay RegisterProtecting Our Offshore Lobsters
Earlier this year, the legislature's Marine Resources Committee unanimously rejected a bill that would have made it legal for draggers to land lobsters in the state, but we still have a pressing problem: Draggers can still legally catch lobsters in their nets in federal waters off the Maine coast. They just can't sell them here.
They can, however, continue to unload their groundfish and their lobsters in Massachusetts, and the chances are very good they'll do so. Massachusetts dealers not only buy lobsters caught in nets (illegal just about everywhere else), they also buy the big, oversized lobsters, which are not allowed in Maine even by trappers.
It's easy to see why Massachusetts refuses to make it illegal to sell dragged, oversized, lobsters in their state. It's spelled m-o-n-e-y. They realize a tremendous economic benefit from Maine's conservation practices: We throw the big lobsters back, and the draggers catch them and sell them in Massachusetts ports, along with the rest of their catch. So that state not only reaps the dollars from these large lobsters, but it gets valuable groundfish such as cod, flounder, and haddock, as well. It's a lose/lose situation for Maine.
The Portland Fish Exchange, which supported the bill to allow dragged lobsters to be sold in Maine, had high hopes that it would mean more fishermen would come to their dock to unload. The exchange has seen a dramatic drop in landings, mostly since groundfish stocks dwindled, and more and more dragger fishermen admittedly began counting on lobsters to make a dollar. Unfortunately, even if the bill had passed, most draggers would have continued to unload their lobsters in Massachusetts if part of their catch was large, higher-priced lobsters.
Maine has repeatedly tried to work with other states in New England and all along the eastern seaboard on conservation issues and has made some progress over the years. However, when it comes to this particular issue, the score is still Massachusetts 10, Maine 0.
If Maine is to continue to protect its lobster industry, which relies on the large, offshore lobsters to support its inshore trap fishery, then we need the cooperation of Massachusetts, or the federal government must step in and make the dragging of lobsters in all federal waters illegal. The pressure continues on Maine lobstermen to cut back further and further to protect lobster stocks, yet it's legal to drag for lobsters off our coastline and land up to one hundred lobsters per day or five hundred lobsters per trip in Massachusetts. It doesn't make sense.Kennebec Journal, AugustaStunted Measures Of Growth
After last year's bruising campaign season in which Maine's economy was described by partisans either as on the verge of ruin or on the verge of greatness, it's a relief to get an unbiased economic analysis to help guide our thinking about the state's future. That analysis came out of the Maine Development Foundation recently, in a report that is prepared annually for the Maine Economic Growth Council, a bipartisan group of business, political, and community leaders in the state. It's called Measures of Growth and does just that it lays out a series of benchmarks for economic progress and then measures how the state has lived up to them. Progress on a benchmark is given a gold star; backsliding merits a red flag.
If we measure the measures, it's not a good picture. Two gold stars were awarded to the state, for having 89 percent of Maine's population covered by health insurance and for protecting our forests. That's nice.
It's the red flags that, of course, have us worried. State and local taxes are too high and haven't come down; health- care coverage may be widespread, but it's punishingly expensive; our manufacturing productivity lags behind the national average. We've invested well in research and development in the past, but that investment is now at an ebb; we're not taking care of our roads and bridges and they've deteriorated alarmingly.
Lawmakers have grappled with the state's high tax burden and are deliberating over any number of proposals, both big and small. Lowering health-care costs is a widely acknowledged priority, though still an intractable problem. As for the state's low productivity, that's largely a reflection of lack of capital investment, and last year the legislature removed one major obstacle to that investment, the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program.
Roads and bridges and research and development, on the other hand, have become political footballs in the last few years. Last year, Republicans refused to sign on to a transportation bond, dooming our transportation infrastructure to further deterioration. Maine's roads and bridges are in considerably worse condition than those in the rest of the region. That takes a significant toll on economic activity in the long run and presents real safety issues. Things have gotten so bad around the state that voter dissatisfaction may prove the undoing of any principled or partisan opposition to a transportation bond. Lawmakers would do well to listen to those who have to drive our roads and bridges every day; many a political career has been derailed by potholes. Much of our economic activity is dependent on our transportation system and failing to address its problems is counterproductive.
And the argument for increased research and development spending has been strongly made from other quarters than the Maine Development Foundation. The governor's Council on Jobs, Innovation, and the Economy submitted an interim report that called on Governor John Baldacci to increase investment in strategically chosen business sectors particularly so-called clusters of emerging industries - from $4 million per year to $10 million.
To create good-paying jobs and a robust economy in Maine, the state must grow its most promising sectors, council members wrote. That means, they said, focusing the state's investments on business support, work force training, and research and development.
This isn't rocket science. Maine is losing its old jobs and old economy, and it needs a turbocharged thrust to make it into the new economy. Part of that momentum will be supplied by research and development into new ways to make things, new ways to work, and new ways to educate workers to do all the above.
We can't think small in this regard; Maine's got a lot of people who need good-paying jobs.Lewiston Sun JournalA Budding Municipal Romance
Do you like-like him/her? Please pardon the teenage lexicon, but it's the perfect phrase to describe the budding romance between the city councils in Lewiston and Auburn. We knew officials of the Twin Cities were acting like BFF - best friends forever - but the extent of their attraction is now just starting to be known.
The icebreaker came March 19 in Auburn, where Councilor Ellen Peters broached an interesting subject: the future of city administration. Like anyone emerging from a long-term relationship - outgoing Auburn manager Pat Finnigan had served for twelve years - the city is wondering where it goes from here.
Before -dating- again, Auburn is looking at an old friend, Lewiston, in a new light, and wants to talk about real consolidation of services, including joint administration. "We~re absolutely in support of exploring the idea, and doing it - if it's in the best interest of Auburn," said Peters.
The stars are aligned for this relationship to blossom. L-A's mayoral leadership - Larry Gilbert and John Jenkins - is wide open to consolidation and poised to further capitalize on what their predecessors, the Guay brothers, started. Governor John Baldacci, through his aggressive school administration plan, has put consolidation and collaboration of government services into a statewide spotlight.
Auburn is losing its top full-time administrators for the city and school district. Lewiston is blessed with bright, and stable, leaders in both those positions. A newly minted joint-services coordinator, former Rumford manager Steve Eldridge, is now sharpening his pencils for a fifteen-month assignment to chart L-A's union.
Perhaps he should be described as a wedding planner.
A major obstacle, among the many, for real progress on consolidation would be reticence by the city councils. Sentiments like those expressed by Peters, however, indicate their relationship could be more than merely platonic. They could become the Romeo and Juliet of modern government in Maine.
Except here, the analogous Montagues and Capulets are the residents of Lewiston and Auburn, who must be convinced this budding affair wouldn't be a pox on both their houses. The councilors must prove the fiscal and efficiency superiority of being together, if they're serious about these discussions.
That's for the future, though. Today, the focus is courtship. Lewiston-Auburn getting together is an idea we definitely "like-like."