ELLSWORTH — The 130th Maine Legislature has released a list of bills proposed in the House and Senate, and local representatives are focused on the commercial fishing industry, alongside other constituent concerns.
The lobster fishery, in particular, is grappling with the prospect of offshore wind energy development and conservation measures, both of which could affect lobstermen and their livelihood.
While more than 1,600 bills have been introduced since the Legislature opened session on Dec. 2, 2020, many are just working titles as the proposed legislation is prepared for committee review.
Fisherman and state Rep. William “Billy Bob” Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) is sponsoring “An Act to Prohibit Offshore Wind Energy Development” (LD 101). Last November, Governor Janet Mills proposed a floating offshore research array of wind energy turbines in the Gulf of Maine, and on Jan. 25 confirmed the project. No decision has been made on a site. After an outcry from the fishing industry, she also has proposed a 10-year moratorium on new wind energy development in Maine-managed waters.
Mills has said that by “focusing on floating offshore technology deep in the Gulf of Maine where the wind is strongest, we will protect Maine’s maritime heritage and coastal economy while being out front in this new competitive industry.”
Faulkingham’s bill would protect state waters from offshore windmills, he told The American. “Offshore wind is a terrible idea for Maine. Single windmills are not practical and must be set up in arrays of at least 12-15 per wind farm. This means that a single array will take up many square miles of ocean surface and bottom, essentially blockade miles of ocean from bird or whale travel patterns and be visible for over 100 miles in all directions.”
He added that the Public Utilities Commission had “extensively studied” research on offshore wind turbines. “They were deemed far too expensive to the rate payer (us) for practical use. That’s why this issue was essentially dead before it was recently resurrected and should remain that way.”
Faulkingham also seeks to provide equity between commercial and noncommercial license holders in the charter fishing industry, with “An Act To Allow Commercial Lobster License Holders To Engage in Demonstration Fishing with a Special Charter License” (LR 225). “Current law unfairly restricts commercial fishermen from participating in the same charter opportunities as non-commercial fishermen,” he said. “This law will correct that inequity.”
Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington), who also is a fisherman, is sponsoring three fishing-related bills. One is directed towards a possible modification of a Frenchboro area where dragging and scalloping are prohibited. LR 739, “An Act To Reevaluate the Dragging Exclusion Zone,” within the Frenchboro Cable Area directs the Department of Marine Resources commissioner to evaluate the size and boundaries of the prohibited region to determine whether it should be modified, and grants the DMR the authority to modify the area through rule-making. This bill was referred to the Committee on Marine Resources as LD 332 and can be viewed at www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0236&item=1&snum=130.
McDonald also seeks an evaluation of the definition and treatment of the “working waterfront” in Maine statutes. LR 1283, An Act To Broaden the Definition of “Working Waterfront” with Respect to Conservation and Land Use, directs the DMR “to assess whether statutory or regulatory changes are needed to better recognize and account for water-dependent commercial activities associated with working waterfront or working waterfront property in the State’s land use planning, resiliency planning and climate change adaptation strategies.”
Her third sponsored bill (LR 581) would allow for the permanent revocation of a commercial fishing license or wholesale seafood license if the license holder is convicted of making a hoax call to the U.S. Coast Guard or Maine Marine Patrol.
From District 138, Rep. Robert Alley Sr. (D-Beals) has proposed LR 434 “An Act to Support Maine’s Sustainable Lobster Fishery” and LR 465 “An Act to Support the Sustainability of Maine’s Lobster Markets.” The American was unable to reach Alley by press time for details concerning the two proposed bills.
And, Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), has introduced LR 1701 “An Act To Keep the Maine Lobster Industry Competitive in the Global Market.”
In the current first regular session of the 130th Legislature, no limit is imposed on how many bills a legislator can propose. When a bill is first introduced, it is assigned a legislative reference number (LR). When the bill is printed, it then becomes a legislative document, the LR changes to an LD, and can be tracked through the process of committee review, amendments and House and Senate votes at https://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/search.asp.