ELLSWORTH — The shutdown of the federal government that began just before Christmas is still having an impact in Ellsworth.
Last November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a draft environmental assessment in connection with the application by Black Bear Hydro Partners, a subsidiary of the Canadian Brookfield Renewable Partners, for a new license to continue to operate its hydroelectric dam system on the Union River. The deadline for comments was Jan. 21.
Among the comments were objections, though different in nature, by Black Bear, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, environmental groups and members of the public to proposed requirements for the construction and maintenance of fishways at the Leonard Lake and Graham Lake dams.
The licensing process gives federal agencies 60 days after the deadline to file “modified mandatory prescriptions or terms and conditions” they consider necessary in response to the comments. That period expires March 21.
Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service regional office in Gloucester, Mass., asked FERC for a 30-day extension to file its proposed modifications until April 21. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed a similar request.
The rationale for the requests was simple.
According to NMFS,“(d)ue to the lapse in funding of the federal government budget, our daily operations were disrupted from Dec. 26, 2018 to Jan. 28, 2019.” As a result, the agency said in its letter, its “review time has been significantly reduced.”
The government shutdown lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, until Jan. 25, 2019 — 34 full days. It was, at least to date, the longest U.S. government shutdown in history and the second federal government shutdown involving furloughs during the presidency of Donald Trump.
According to The New York Times, since 1976, there have been 21 gaps in government funding, with shutdowns varying in length from one to 34 days. Like the recent shutdown, many of the prior shutdowns were partial because some federal agencies had already been funded through prior appropriations.