Belfast City Council preview, Dec. 2

Belfast floats plans for uncrowding harbor, de-mucking ‘The Muck’

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 10:45am

Story Location:
Belfast Harbor
Belfast, ME 04915
United States

    BELFAST – A plan to reorganize moorings in Belfast Harbor would free up space for current users, including commercial fishermen and boat workers. It would also raise the bar for access to the inner harbor.

    The Inner Harbor Improvement Plan, put together by Gartley & Dorsky engineers and reviewed by the city’s harbor committee, also raises the possibility of dredging and adding a wave attenuator in the future to open a wider swath of the harbor to more and larger boats. 

    When the plan comes before the City Council Dec. 2 for a review and a public hearing, Harbor Master Katherine Pickering said the focus will likely be on working with what is already there.

    Speaking on Monday morning, Pickering said the plan was drafted in response to increased demand for use of the protected inner harbor since the arrival of Front Street Shipyard.

    “That’s the impetus,” she said. “Basically it’s reorganizing to use the space better.”

    One detail that could rankle longtime users is that single-point moorings would no longer be allowed from roughly the public landing in to the footbridge. Pickering said current mooring holders would need to either upgrade to a float or move out beyond the breakwater.

    The cost of building floats was one of several concerns noted by the harbor committee on the plan. The committee also asked that the discussion include all businesses operating from the harbor, and not be limited to the needs of Front Street Shipyard and commercial fishermen.

    The report from Gartley & Dorsky also included recommendations for two major projects that would effectively make more of the harbor available for boats: dredging and some kind of wave attenuation.

    Pickering said dredging would not focus on the commercial channel. Rather the hope would be to make the overall depth of the harbor greater to the east of the channel.

    “If you could dredge maybe three or four hundred feet from the channel toward the east side, that would create great space for the boats,” she said.

    Pickering noted that cost and environmental regulations would have to be major considerations, but she described opening up the east side of the harbor, where today some moorings sit just 4 to 6 feet above the mud at low tide, as “the ultimate.”

    Another option that would make the harbor bigger from a commercial standpoint would be to tame the wilder waters beyond the breakwater with some kind of wave attenuator. The term applies to anything that breaks or mutes the amplitude of waves, from traditional jetties to high-tech floating structures that don’t disturb the seabed.

    An attenuator could, in theory, extend the calm waters of the inner harbor further out toward the mouth of the bay. Pickering said this would mean more commercial development further out, which could have some benefits but also would change the historical character and feel of a harbor. Wave attenuation and dredging are just ideas at this point, but they may come up for discussion on Tuesday.

    ”Anything like that would take years, so we’re focusing on the users we have right now,” Pickering said.

    The Council will hold a public hearing on the Inner Harbor Improvement Plan at its regular meeting, Tuesday Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

    According to the city manager’s report, no action expected on the harbor plan, however, the Council will likely vote on proposed fee increases for use of harbor facilities and approve contracts for three charter boats that would operate in the harbor in the coming season, including one new vessel, a 72-foot schooner owned by Bonnie Lynn Charters of Islesboro that would be used for day sails.

    Less Muck, more lake, different fish

    A plan to dredge Kirby Lake — a.k.a. “The Muck” — in order to create a youth only fishing site may move ahead. Parks and Recreation Department Director Norm Poirier is requesting $5,000 to rent a special excavator to remove vegetation and other debris from the lake bed in a swath around the periphery of the former firefighting reservoir at the crook of Miller Street and Lincolnville Avenue.

    The larger project, as originally proposed by Game Warden Chris Dyer in August, would involve draining The Muck and "eradicating" goldfish, which are considered an invasive species, then stocking the lake with trout. In a memo to the City Council, Poirier said The Muck would eventually need to be dredged to remove leaves and road debris that are making the lake smaller and shallower.

    "Why not create an area that can be habitat for trout and provide a location for youth to learn how to fish in addition to creating family memories for years to come," he said.

    In a memo to Poirier, Jason Seiders, Regional Fisheries Biologist with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said the department had success with doing similar work at a fishing area in Bristol. Seiders said conditions at The Muck might not allow trout to survive through the year, in which case the lake would need to be restocked each spring, and that the lake could not likely be limited to youth fishing until 2016.

    Arguments against de-mucking the lake have included a desire to leave as it is, skepticism about being able to rid the lake of goldfish without drastic measures, and speculation that the fishing hole represents a nostalgic adult dream of youth more than it reflects real interest or potential.

    Picking a poet laureate, buying police cars, and union negotiations

    Former Belfast Poet Laureate Linda Buckmaster will ask the Council to sign off on a five-member search committee for a new poet laureate. Current poet laureate Ellen Sander finishes her two-year term on Dec. 31. The position is honorary, but past laureates have organized readings, contests and other platforms for poetry, including the annual Belfast Poetry Festival.

    Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden is seeking approval to buy a detective's car and a police cruiser. The latter would be an SUV-style Ford Utility Police Interceptor, which McFadden described as "the best patrol vehicle made," noting also that it gets better gas mileage than the Chevy Impalas in the fleet.

    The Council is also scheduled to hold one executive session, to discuss union negotiations.

    Ethan Andrews can be reached at