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Local youth and parents can look forward to something new happening this summer at the Machias Valley Grange Hall. Partners in Presenting the Performing Arts (PIPPA) will be presenting summer camp at the Grange during the second and third week in July.

The first week of the program will be theatre camp, where local youth will write and produce their own plays, designing their own sets and costumes and acting. At the end of the week, the public will be invited to attend the showing of the plays.

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The Machias River Wigwams Program is gearing up for their second session this summer. The program is a collaboration between the Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) and the Cobscook Community Learning Center (CCLC) and gives local youth the opportunity to learn skills and explore in a camp like setting.

Last year was the pilot program and was wildly successful with seven participants. DSF owns a camp at the Wigwams site on the bank of the Machias River and it was a site where many people were finding artifacts. The prospecting of the artifacts, however, was causing significant erosion. A test dig was done and the site was determined to already be disturbed.

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The 2014 elver season officially started on Sunday. After several attempted negotiations with the state, the Passamaquoddy tribe voted last week for individual catch quotas. They did so by amending Passamaquoddy Tribal Law.

“We did not agree to abide by state law,” said Passamaquoddy Tribal Council Member and Passamaquoddy Fisheries Advisory Committee member Newell Lewey. “We would never do that. We are abiding by Passamaquoddy Tribal Law.”

press release sent over the weekend in an attempt to correct a misquote by Passamaquoddy Chief Joseph Socobasin states, “After the State’s Attorney General alleged there were legal problems to a jointly agreed upon co-management plan, the State unilaterally pulled out of negotiations and ultimately passed a law [LD1625] that allowed the Tribe only two routes of safety for its Tribal members. Either the Tribe would have to amend their own law to reflect an individual catch quota or decide not to fish.”

The above decision came at a February 11th meeting. Passamaquoddy tribal members, Lewey included, were very confident going into that meeting, and felt steamrolled afterwards.

Lewey and other tribal members on the Fisheries Advisory Committee met for over 15 hours last week to come to a decision in time for the start of the season. It was a very difficult decision, with some tribal members stating that they would rather not go out to fish than to ammend the law to allow individual quotas. Many will go out and fish this season. There are over 350 tribal members who hold licenses.

The press release went on to say: Eel fishing is a vital part of Passamaquoddy Culture with Passamaquoddy eel camps noted on the earliest maps of the region. “We have preserved access to this fishery for our people,” said Vice-Chief Clayton Sockabasin who is also Chair of the Fishery Committee, “but none of us are comfortable with what has happened.” Vera Francis, Fishery Committee member, added, “We come to the table and negotiate with full transparency and intent to live up to our commitments. Each time, the State finds a way to force an unpalatable outcome. You would think that living up to their word would be a matter of honor. It is for us.”

Lewey does not expect this elver season to be as tumultuous as last. He says that at the end of the day, the tribe is excercising their inherint salt water fishing rights that were never relinquished.

 

In recent months, two legislative bills regarding citizens rights in the Unorganized Territories (UT's) as pertains to wind energy development have had much discussion in the Trescott area of Washington County. Last Thursday, they were both defeated in the Senate.

LD 616 “An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development under the Jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission” had the most concern and discussion from area residents. It would have allowed citizens to participate in zoning hearings held by their local government,the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC).

The majority report, which Senator David Burns supported directs the LUPC to adopt rules that govern the rule making process for removing locations from the expedited permitting area in the UT's.

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While there was certainly some public relief regarding Senator Dave Burn’s announcement late last week that “Governor LePage will not submit legislation this term to authorize bonds to finance the proposed replacement of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, which would include the closing of the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport”, this could have little impact on both the short term, and certainly the longer term actions the Governor and state may take. 

Senator Burns went on to say, “The governor’s decision means the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport is in no immediate danger of being closed”. “Immediate danger” is a question of definition. Should this have been approved it would have taken at least three years to put in place before DCF would have been closed. The timeframe remains pretty much unchanged, and the issue remains muddied and unclear.

Corrections Commissioner Ponte, whose surprise announcement to leave his position in Maine to run the jails in New York City remains able to make changes to the administrative capacities of the DCF until his departure on April 7th according to a source in the Maine Corrections Department. It was an initiative initially put forth by him.

Secondly, the bond bill does not “die” with the end of the legislative term this year if it is simply tabled or officially referred for additional review. And it does not mention the proposed efforts to consolidate the County jail system, which of course includes the Washington County Jail.

Additionally, there has been no official recognition of the fact that the cost analysis study that could remain the pivotal point on which state decisions may be made does not take into account in any way the dollar value the DCF contributes to Washington County and the state.

According to an anonymous source within the Maine Corrections Department, “Anything can happen. The legislature is still in session. This is by no means off the table. And even if not carried over, it is likely to be revived.”

The Director of the Downeast Correctional Facility, Scott Jones, when asked about the announcement had no comment and Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith confirmed this has no affect on the County Jail consolidation efforts. Representative Mark Dion was the sponsor of the “Joint Study Order Establishing the Commission To Study the State Board of Corrections and the Unified County Corrections System."

“There would be a lot of hoops to jump through in order to authorize bonds for the proposed prison during the time remaining in the legislative session. I believe we have some breathing time to work on an alternative (to) what was proposed,” said Burns. “That’s been our intent all along.”

This is by no means over and combined with Commissioner Ponte’s sudden departure, the vocal opposition from Washington County, and coming elections, it is a curious development that a number of officials are both heralding and taking credit for.

The Machias Valley News Observer is located at 41 Broadway in Machias, Maine.
For more information please contact us at (207) 255-6561.

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