I own a small business in Livermore Falls, and do mostly selective cutting of wood lots the old way, with a chainsaw and cable skidder.
In planning to build a new power line through our state, Central Maine Power claims that the project will bring money to the local economy. While there may be some jobs for Maine people while it’s under construction, just how many is the question. Furthermore, how many jobs will be permanent and have a lasting effect on Maine’s economy?
For starters, the winning bid for the clearing of all the trees was granted to an out-of-state company. I know there are plenty of competent land management and land clearing companies right here in Maine. Many are already listed as vendors with CMP.
Why, if this project is supposed to bolster the state’s economy and provide local jobs, has CMP contracted with an out-of-state company for land clearing? Not only does it bring some of its own workers, it even uses a lot of its own equipment. Some fuel is bought in bulk, limiting the sales for local fuel companies.
What concerns me the most is how the project is funded. CMP claims it comes at no cost to Maine people. I think we shouldn’t forget that CMP as an entity is funded by Maine people.
The forest products industry in Maine has taken a big hit these days, between the era of electronics and Internet, COVID-19, and the loss of the digester at the Jay mill. Many forest product companies are left wondering what to do. Maine’s forest products industry accounted for an estimated $2.7 billion of Maine’s economy in 2016. If any of the lumber is sold from the massive amounts of wood being decimated from the clearing of this project, it will drown the already-flooded wood commodity market.
The alternative is to chip in place, or chip and haul off. If that’s the case, how many tons of carbon-filtering, oxygen-producing, renewable trees will go to waste while being left to rot, producing methane gas? While normal amounts of wood waste left after a sustainable harvest is considered good for erosion control and for providing nutrients for trees left standing, decimation of miles of timberland to never have trees growing on it again does not promote a healthy sustainable forest.
In fact, one market that it will directly affect is the biomass industry. We have a plant right here in Livermore Falls. They burn a combination of otherwise wasted wood and clean building demolition to produce 284,000 net megawatt hours of electricity. This is done cleanly and makes use of a product that would otherwise take up space in landfills or be wasted in the woods. Not to mention the market it creates for local sawmills to sell waste product like slabs and sawdust, which keeps the cost of lumber down.
With this new corridor getting power from out of country, where lax regulations exist in the hydro industry, it threatens the ability for companies like this to compete in the power market. Not to mention the local property tax this entire ecosystem generates locally, as well as the local jobs this provides our community day after day and year after year.
Once the trees are harvested from the corridor, the only real lasting job left for Mainers is for the companies that annually or biannually hire workers to ride the miles of barren land on ATVs, spraying anything that is growing with herbicide down 100-plus miles of what was once a flourishing forested ecosystem.
The plan for this corridor has certainly prompted concerns from many of Maine’s citizens. As a logger, I would urge everyone to think about what’s really the best compromise for producing and distributing electricity, while doing it in a green and sustainable way.
When managed properly, trees are a renewable resource.
Is CMP managing the forest they “own” sustainably? Is the power line really “green?”
Bryce Bilodeau of Livermore Falls is a self-employed logger.