March 14, 2012
Messrs. Don Dougherty
Co-Chairs, St. Croix International Waterway Commission
St Croix International Waterway Commission
Box 610, Calais, ME 04619
Re: The St. Croix International Waterway Commission 2012 Canadian Heritage River Report
We appreciate the opportunity through Steve Keith of our Board to share resource information with Chris Barr about the Upper St. Croix-Chiputneticook Lakes area regarding the Commission’s 2012 Canadian Heritage River Report. This work is extremely timely as we believe there is a window of opportunity to permanently protect what remains of all that the Upper St. Croix represents. The purpose of this letter is to offer some general observations about the landscape and two related areas of concern; the first is natural character the second, scenic degradation.
Retaining Natural Character
East Grand Lake, in its entirety, is home to hundreds of cottages concentrated in approximately ten distinct but widely separated mixed residential/commercial neighborhoods. These separate and distinct neighborhoods have been incrementally developed, until recent times, near public road access. This clustering, as if planned, has strategically separated highly developed areas from sections of undeveloped shorefront, thus retaining a form of natural character unique to a developed lake. Furthermore, it is this fragile blending of the natural landscape that has for years been the major contributor to the desirability of East Grand for sport fishing and cottage owners alike. We believe further erosion of these natural shoreline areas will result in irreversible declines in the ecological, biological and cultural health of the watershed and risk the long term economic viability of the entire Upper St. Croix area.
Notwithstanding the above, there is one major advantage to addressing land use in the Upper St. Croix, and that is, a majority of the landscape is owned by a small number of landowners. The Crown through it’s acquisition of the former GP lands is the major landowner along the Canadian Shore including lands that abut Monument Brook. While almost all of these lands remain undeveloped, the Crown currently has avenues to change land use from timber to development under certain protocols. Conversely, many freehold interests that border the waterway have undergone a recent increase in development, especially those lands that border the upper part of East Grand Lake.
On the Maine side of the Upper St. Croix the percentage of the developed shore land has remained somewhat constant. However, the existing development footprint has undergone significant upgrades, enlargements, back lot subdivisions and shoreline alterations in response to a sizable increase in year-round and intensive seasonal residential use. The good news here is that most of what remains as undeveloped shorefront also resides with one owner. That owner, The Conservation Fund, recently purchased the former GP lands located in Weston and Orient that border the waterway. We believe they have plans to conserve much of the shore land around East Grand and North Lakes and to protect wildlife habitat along Monument Brook. These two landowners, the Crown and The Conservation Fund must serve as the focal point for the protection of the remaining natural character in this watershed. We strongly urge you to call for the Crown lands to be permanently protected from development and to wholeheartedly support The Conservation Fund efforts in the Upper St. Croix Watershed.
Wind power development in Maine has seen tremendous political, regulatory and public financing momentum. However, one of the apparent flaws in the Maine regulatory system is the lack of proper vetting of specific site locations in the very early stages of wind farm development. This flaw leads to substantial community angst pitting the potential “windfall” of short-term local tax revenue against the long-term stewardship of all of the larger landscape’s natural resources.
We believe one of worst examples of a totally improper location, is the wind farm project proposed for the high land located southeasterly of East Grand Lake in Maine. This project, if approved, would potentially lead to the construction of a long line of 400+ foot high towers situated on a parallel ridge-line 2 miles or less from the Shore of East Grand Lake. A wind farm development at this location would totally dominate the Upper St. Croix landscape. We believe the project would not only destroy the existing scenic qualities and seriously degrade the area’s natural appeal (which is a major contributor to long-term economic health), but also frustrate much of what a Heritage River System should represent. We believe it is critical that this location be found off limits to wind farm development. To that end we urge you to exercise as much influence as possible.
The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust recognizes there is balance and synergy between sustaining the economic well-being of the Upper St. Croix communities in a heavily dependent natural resource economy, and the conservation of the area’s natural, cultural, and historic resources. Now is the time to permanently address that delicate balance. We urge you to pursue your work with these thoughts in mind, and to not hesitate to use us as a resource in this effort.
Elbridge G. Cleaves