By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,265)
The Harbor Commision voted unanimously tonight to approve the application of New Yard for a permit to construct a facility to service large passenger vessels on the western end of Commercial Street. Despite a concerted effort by tugboat captains employed by McAlliser Towing, the Board was convinced that New Yard, proposed by Phineas Sprague, Jr., owner of Portland Yacht Services, met all of its requirements to be issued a consruction permit.
Todays public hearing was the third and the final one in a series of meetings before the Harbor Commission. Opposition to the New Yard proposal has been focused and relentless; concentrating on the safety hazards of permitting Portland Tugboat Co. and the proposed New Yard to co-mingle in the Fore River. The unanimous vote in favor of issuing the permit illustrated that the tugboat captains, led by McAllister failed to accomplish that. However, in all three public workshops and hearings, it was never evident that the Board of Harbor Commissions agreed with the McAllister Towing that the two could not co-exist in the western part of Commercial Street.
Decesiive testimony on behalf of New Yard came from Captain Skip Strong, of Penobscot Bay, who gave creditable evidence that there are multiple ways of both business interests co-existing. Strong said that “under normal circumstances this is not a risky situation. New Yard has to take responsibility for damage that could be done to its docks in the area.” Attorney MIchael X. Savasuk, Troubh Heisler, said that Strong’s presentation was “fact” and not the “fiction” presented by the tugboat captains.
Each of the Harbor Commissioners made it clear they believed that through good communications and all parties working together the two entities can co-exist. Commissioner Bert Jorgensen said in part: “This situation is getting too polarized. It’s a diverse harbor and it has to stay that way. There are now new needs to be accommodated. Phin (Sprague) has worked to be accommodating of the needs of the tugboat captains in the area. Yes, there could be damage.”
Following the 2 1/2 hour public hearing, Phin Sprague, Jr., said: “I”m very grateful that we received 100% support from the Commissioners. We listened to the concerns and respected the concerns of the pilots and can work together with them.”
Chris O’Neil, liaison from the Portland Chamber of Commerce to the City Council said: “For decades we’ve simultaneously tried to preserve and develop the waterfront. Moving that much marine industrial activity to a parcel of land on the waterfront that had been written off for dead could create huge opportunities for the rest of the waterfront. Phin has just pierced the veil for development on the western waterfront.”
For more background information, please visit Posts # 1,260, dated 1/4/13 herein as well as Post # 1,266, dated ll/27/12,