For years, my son has leased land from Christian Camps in Jackman to tap trees for maple syrup, so I’m very familiar with this property. That’s why I was shocked to see former Maine Supreme Court Justice Dan Wathen on the news recently saying that a lease held by the camp on State land for a short stretch of buried phone line would be impacted by Question 1.
Wathen is counsel for Pierce Atwood, the firm that represents CMP, so it is his job to muddle the issue, but I’d like to make one thing crystal clear. We resent the fact that Central Maine Power (CMP) is using this minor lease to divert attention from its massively destructive power corridor.
Environmental impact aside, the lease for Christian Camp’s buried phone line predates the constitutional amendment that requires legislative approval for uses that substantially alter the use or value of public lands (the provision CMP blatantly violated with both its 2014 and 2020 leases, according to a unbiased sitting judge with no skin in the game). The camp’s lease has since been renewed, however, no changes to the existing use of the land were granted, so it clearly wouldn’t be swept up in Question 1.
But logic aside, I thought it was important to go and walk this parcel with a camera to demonstrate just how ludicrous it is to compare 1,000 feet of buried phone line with a 100-foot-wide clear cut bisecting public lands. I’d urge you to please take a few minutes to watch this video so you can see for yourself just how minor the lease renewal for Christian Camps phone line is.
Next, I’d urge you to take a look at these recent photos which clearly demonstrate the scale of just how serious the environmental damage CMP is inflicting on the Upper Kennebec Region is, and picture this scar ripping across undeveloped land spanning 53 miles, roughly the distance on I-95 from Augusta to Portland.
As you can clearly see, there is simply no comparing the two public lands leases. One lease, belonging to Christian Camps, is for a buried line that includes no poles above ground, and after several decades of use, has left absolutely no evidence that it’s even there.
It doesn’t affect the visual impact, wildlife habitat or the use of the property. The second lease, formerly held by CMP for the corridor, permanently converts operating forest into a devastating clear cut that is at least 100 feet wide with rights to an additional 150 feet for additional poles and lines in the future.
It’s truly infuriating to watch CMP march out its bench of paid “experts” to deflect Maine voters from the truth, which is that more than 80,000 Mainers, including myself, initiated Question 1 to finally have a say on this project, which has already had a tremendous impact on the region that I call home.
We did this because CMP has acted in bad faith, skirting the Maine Constitution, going to great expense to lobby unelected bureaucrats to grease the skids for this unpopular, and frankly unneeded, project. But CMP is not above the letter of the law, and thanks to hundreds of volunteers who collected signatures in nearly every town and township across this beautiful state last winter, it can no longer avoid the will of the Maine people.
So as you decide how you’ll vote on this incredibly important referendum, please consider the messenger. Don’t let CMP and its paid operatives confuse the issue. Question 1 is about the CMP Corridor and nothing else. Ads that tell you otherwise are bought and paid for by the least trustworthy power utility company in the nation. I encourage Mainers to support this measure.
Note: This is a Maine Point of View (PoV) column. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of The Maine Wire or Maine Policy Institute.