The Portland Harbor Commission has been charged with the responsibility for the regulation of navigation and commerce within Portland Harbor since being established by an Act of the Maine Legislature in 1917. The Commission is made up of five members including two from South Portland, two from Portland and one appointed by the Governor.
A major part of our charge is, “The commission may investigate and determine, as far as practicable, what improvements may be made to the harbor to make it safer and more advantageous for navigation and commerce.” To that end, as Commission members we strongly believe we are compelled to comment on South Portland’s proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance (WPO).
The marine industry in South Portland is a significant regional economic engine and provides critical energy infrastructure supporting the harbor and a level of waterfront commerce that in fact was responsible for the development of the cities that the commissioners now represent. The record shows the Port of Portland is one of the safest ports on the East Coast. This exceptional record is in large part due to the continuing expansion of these facilities to enable the upgrading of safety and environmental equipment. With responsibility for permitting of docks and other structures within the harbor, the commission is well aware of the level of improvement projects that occur on a regular basis at all marine facilities.
The proposed ordinance threatens the viability of the entire industry as it broadly applies to all South Portland waterfront business in the Shipyard and Commercial Zone that handle any type of petroleum and essentially restricts development. The WPO would also impact marinas and boatyards that handle fuel as the proposed ordinance states there “shall be no expansion of…facilities for the storage and handling of petroleum.”
One facility recently asked the commission to defer their permit application for the expansion and upgrade of their dock lines until after the November vote. This expansion would upgrade their operation and improve the environmental safety of the entire operation. It is hard to understand how any ordinance that precludes this type of upgrade could be perceived as “Protecting the Waterfront.”
As commissioners, we respectfully ask the residents of South Portland to carefully review the proposed ordinance. We firmly believe that when they do, voters will come to the same conclusion that the WPO is not good for the working waterfront or the City of South Portland.
Portland Harbor Commission
(Thomas W. Dobbins, Governor’s appointment; Capt. John Stewart, South Portland; Capt. William VanVoorhis, South Portland; Bert Jongerden, Portland; and Daniel Haley, Jr., Portland.)