New EPA Proposal Could Cost Washington County More Than Just Jobs

By Amy Jeanroy

 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed licensing on the three water storage facilities that make up East and West Grand lake, Spednik Lake and Sysladobsis Lake. These lakes are part of Woodland Pulp's hydro system, as well as part of the St. Croix River watershed. 

The proposed licensing would cost Woodland mill in excess of $1 million a year and may force the mill to surrender its FERC licenses. If this happens, the dam gates would be pulled and the results would be a change in the region's ecology. In simple terms, waterfront homes in Maine and New Brunswick would cease to be waterfront, as their waterfront status only exist because of the dams.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin introduced legislation that would exempt Woodland mill from the proposed licensing, calling it "devastating to the region's ecology."

According to a Poliquin spokesman, it would cost Woodland Pulp more than $1 million to buy off-grid replacement power if it closes the dams.

A FERC decision in March found conditions for Woodland Pulp to obtain new licensing, including new fishways for eels,was reasonable.

Downeast Salmon Federation is opposed to the bill. They, along with other environmental groups are working to stock fish in the St. Croix River and improve fish access at the dams. Other concerns are that Poliquin's bill would limit public oversight of dams and water and lead to a diminished or abandoned fish program. 

Baileyville Town Manager Rick Bronson says "The dams on the St. Croix not only support the largest employer and largest taxpayer in Washington County, but they also support water levels that many people on both sides of the river have become accustomed to."

 

Woodland Pulp employs 400 people, and recently invested $120 million dollars in an expansion that included 80 new jobs.