Written by David Carkhuff
Maple syrup producers look for 40-degree days and 20-degree nights to tap their trees and watch the sap flow, but this winter isn’t providing either.
Below-freezing high temperatures have maple trees frozen, delaying the season.
“Everybody is just in a waiting pattern, and everybody just realizes this is a dose of reality,” said Lyle Merrifield of Merrifield Farm in Gorham, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association, noting that previous winters were warmer than normal.
A record-tying streak of below-freezing weather in Portland offers a snapshot of this winter.
Thursday was the 10th consecutive day of below-freezing high temperatures in Portland, effectively tying the record for longest cold snap as measured after the date Feb. 25. Prior to Thursday, the longest stretch of days below freezing this late in the year was a 10-day stretch from Feb. 23 to March 4, 1994, the National Weather Service reported.
(The longest stretch of consecutive days of freezing temperatures in Portland was a 37-day stretch from Dec. 22, 1976 to Jan. 27, 1977. What’s notable about this current stretch of cold weather is that it occurred so late in the season, the National Weather Service notes.)
A gauge at the Portland Jetport was registering a high of 31 degrees Thursday, just two degrees shy of surpassing the freezing mark. Friday is the day “we probably will get above” and end the rash of below-freezing days, said meteorologist Mike Kistner.
“It looks like we will tie that record for the longest stretch,” he said.
The weather service has kept temperature records at the Portland Jetport since 1940.
For maple syrup producers, the cold days have left trees frozen and sap stuck.
This year, Maine Maple Sunday will celebrate its 31st anniversary on March 23, with about 100 sugarhouses participating throughout Maine with candy and syrup sampling, demonstrations of making syrup, sugarbush tours and a variety of other activities.
Merrifield said producers hope weather has moderated by then.
“We’ve had all of our trees tapped now for a couple of weeks. … We’re pretty optimistic that things will start to let go this weekend,” he said.
“I’m pretty optimistic that everybody will have syrup enough for Maine Maple Sunday,” Merrifield said.
Mark Cooper at Coopers Maple Products in Windham, in his 26th year as a commercial operator, said March 20 is the operation’s latest start of the season. This year, sap likely will flow before March 20, but it’s late.
“This isn’t the latest start we’ve had to our season, but we’re easily two weeks behind right now,” Cooper said.
With a warmer weekend forecast, and temperatures expected to climb into the low 40s, sap may begin loosening up. “It will take a little bit for the trees to start running; as cold as it’s been it will take a while for the trees to get unfroze,” Cooper said.
“With all of the cold weather, the sap just isn’t flowing yet. Basically, for sap to flow, we need daytime temperatures up into the 40s and nighttime temperatures maybe down into the mid-20s,” he said.
With 1,700 to 1,800 taps, Cooper said he typically produces around 400 gallons of syrup “if the weather cooperates.” Still, cold weather shouldn’t be a surprise during a Maine winter, he said.
“This is more like winter used to be, but the last few years our issue has been too much warm temperatures, not enough of a balance between the cold nights and the warm days,” Cooper said.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 01:18
Written by Craig Lyons
A Canadian agency's decision to allow the flow reversal of a pipeline from Ontario to Montreal was decried as the first step toward pumping tar sands through Maine.
The National Energy Board of Canada announced Thursday that it had approved plans by Enbridge to transport oil through its pipeline from Ontario to Montreal, according to a press release. Environmental groups in Maine reacted to the decision by cautioning the state that the agency's decision could soon allow tar sands to be pumped from Montreal to the Portland waterfront.
"Today's decision brings toxic tar sands oil right to New England's doorstep, and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, in a statement. "This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state. That would be unacceptable. Now is the time for the U.S. State Department to commit to an environmental review of any tar sands project in our state."
The agency's decision will allow Enbridge to move oil from west to east, where it previously pumped oil from Montreal; allow the pipeline to move heavy crude oil; and expand the volume from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day, according to a summary of the decision.
The Enbridge project is separate from the Portland to Montreal Pipeline. The Portland to Montreal Pipeline has denied plans to reverse the flow of its line and bring heavy crude from Canada into Maine.
Groups including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Environment Maine, the Sierra Club of Maine, the Sebago Lake Anglers' Association and a number of other groups called on the U.S. State Department to be notified if the Portland to Montreal Pipeline plans to reverse the flow and require a new permit.
"We've been expecting today's news, and it only redoubles our commitment to keep tar sands out of Maine by preventing it from being shipped out of Casco Bay. For our coast, our water, and our climate, we simply will not allow tar sands to flow through our beautiful state," said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor, in a statement.
Last fall, the Citizens to Protect South Portland tried to pass an ordinance to block a project they felt was a step toward moving tar sands oil into Maine but the measure failed at the polls. The South Portland City council did approve a moratorium on any project related to tar sands for six months.
"After today's disappointing news from Canada, Maine needs to send a strong, clear message that we will not be next," said Voorhees. "We again call on our Congressional delegation to lead and defend Maine's interests."
Last year, Graham White, manager of business communications for Canadian energy company Enbridge, told The Daily Sun that "tar sands" transport into Maine is not an active effort.
"Please note that contrary to recent reports and claims by some environmental and protest groups in the region, Enbridge has no plans or proposals whatsoever to transport any crude products, including diluted bitumen, through the pipelines of the Portland Montreal Pipe Line company that runs from Portland, Maine to Montreal, Quebec," he said.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 01:19
Written by Timothy Gillis
When life began to turn dark, Colin Malakie got light. The Portland photographer has been capturing local street scenes on film for more than two decades, methodically developing images in his darkroom, which is part of a Pine Street apartment.
At the beginning of the year, he was confronted with a forced move from his home and office, and the upheaval of one hundred thousand negatives. Malakie faced the challenge with conviction. He decided it was time to share his work with the city while packing up and making the move.
An exhibition featuring a hand-printed catalog of more than 140 images, as well as 20 framed prints of his black and white photographs, will be on display during the First Friday Art Walk Friday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Think Tank on Congress Street.
Malakie, whose work has appeared in Dublin, Ireland, and Portland, previously, has never had so comprehensive a display of his life's work.
He was born in New Jersey and moved to upstate New York. He came to Maine in 1988, when he was 26.
"I noticed Tonee Harbert's work immediately," he said. "I started taking photos for Casco Bay Weekly in 1990, and worked there for a decade."
The exhibit will showcase images from Portland, New York City, and Dublin. A musician friend moved to Manhattan and opened up the opportunity for Malakie to return to New York and take photos in the early 1990s. The Emerald Isle pics were taken in 1999-2000, during a yearlong visit.
"I went to Ireland as an homage to my mother, Elizabeth Behan (part of the Dublin Brendan Behan clan) who had passed away. She lived an Angela's Ashes type of life, in Dublin instead of Cork," he said. "Even though she was poor, she put a lot of faith in staying clean and presenting your best self."
Malakie spent a year retracing her youthful steps, creating a photographic tribute to her life. He had a show at Local 188 when he returned in 2000.
Over the years, Malakie has never made the move to digital photography. The pictures in this exhibit come from a time when Foto Shop was a store you visited for camera supplies, not a virtual darkroom where subtle adjustments in brightness and shadow can be made with a click.
"By 1997, the photo business was being rattled," he said of his earliest recollection of the industry shift. "When I got to Ireland, I met up with a friend who was a Reuters photographer. He was shooting assignments in digital. When I came back, it had already started to change."
Photography equipment became more digitized by 2004. Malakie could never afford to make the jump.
"I'd invested so much in my equipment, I couldn't make it happen," he said. "Still to this day, the only camera I have is a Leica, M6 rangefinder."
That trusty tool has been kind to him. His images show iconic scenes of Portland in the middle of the 1990s, with such friendly faces as Jolly John Pulsifer and mannequins from Porteous.
The celluloid tour takes you to Monument Square for a bird's eye view, to the back of the Asylum catching graffiti taggers on the run, and to the Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck.
In Malakie's images of Ireland, you can traipse past The Temple Bar, the River Liffey, or a bronze statue of James Joyce.
In any location, one thing remains constant in all of Malakie's work: Every picture tells a story. Startling contrasts come up within the same frame. But whether through continuity or paradox, Malakie's photographs each possess a narrative, one that reveals itself more fully the longer you look.
It's as if all the turmoil and disturbance of his geographic shift has brought past pictures to the current surface. Malakie sees this show as a step towards a fruitful return to the "reportage photographique" of his past.
"Now my plan is to go back into what I call the 'mines,'" he said. "There's gold in there to sift out."
The Photography of Colin Malakie
March First Friday Art Walk
Think Tank, 533 Congress St., Portland
5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Food and beverages provided.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 01:20
Written by Craig Lyons
Proposed ordinances that will limit the use of polystyrene foam containers for food services and impose a 10-cent fee on disposable bags will soon be vetted by the public and a City Council subcommittee.
The Transportation Sustainability and Energy Committee on Wednesday, March 19 will review a revised version of the polystyrene foam ban, which was referred back to the committee for additional work in September, and take a first look at the proposed fee on disposable paper and plastic bags. Both ordinances were created by the Green Packaging Working Group.
Troy Moon, the city's environmental programs manager, said when the council reviewed the polystyrene ban in the fall, they thought it was confusing and needed some more work. He said the definitions in the ordinance were clarified and made a substantial change by removing the part of the formally proposed language that impacts the seafood industry.
Moon said during the council's first review, representatives from the seafood industry pointed out that there was no reasonable alternative to foam containers used for the sale and packaging of raw food.
The proposed ordinance endorsed by the task force would prohibit a retail food vendor from serving or selling prepared food on polystyrene service ware; not allow food packagers who offer products for retail sale to use the material; and keep the city and groups doing work with the city from using polystyrene food containers. The ordinance allows for prepackaged foods in polystyrene containers to be sold.
The ordinance includes exemptions based on undue hardship and in the instance of an emergency situation.
The language for the ordinance was based on one that Freeport enacted in 1990. The town's ordinance prohibits retail vendors from serving or preparing food and not packaging meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene containers. The ordinance further prevents retailers and vendors within the town from selling polystyrene food or beverage containers.
The minority members of the task force felt the group didn't accurately consider the financial implications of the ban; that the ordinance will do little to reduce litter; that the process to draft the ordinance was flawed; and the information used as the basis for the ordinance misapprehended polystyrene products.
The draft language states that the ban, if enacted, will take effect in July 2015, but could be nullified if the city develops and maintains a recycling program for polystyrene products.
The second ordinance proposes a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags levied on grocers, convenience stores, food service establishments and clothes cleaning services. At its inception, the proposed ordinance only affected grocers and convenience stores but the group opted to include farmers markets and one day events, clothes cleaning services and restaurants and other food service establishments despite some concern from members of the group that the ordinance is was too broad.
The ordinance was considered by the working group as an attempt to decrease the amount of waste created by disposable bags. Exemptions in the ordinance include bags for items like fruits, vegetables, meat or fish, flowers and plants, prescription medications or newspaper bags. The ordinance includes a clause that allows for bags to be given out at no fee during an emergency situation, at the discretion of the city manager or other official.
An establishment can retain up to 40 percent of the waste reduction fee. The portion of the fee that will go to the city will be used for programs to mitigate the environmental impact of disposable bags, including providing reusable bags to residents and visitors, education programs and waste reduction programs.
The five members of the group who opposed the bag fee, which included representatives from the restaurant, grocer, retail and convenience store industries, suggested in a minority report that the city ought adopt and education and awareness campaign to address the issue of plastic bag waste.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:50
Written by David Carkhuff
Exports from Maine are expected to rise with an expansion and rail connection at the International Marine Terminal in Portland.
Work overseen by the Maine Department of Transportation will include relocation of rail track, reconfiguration and expansion of the IMT container yard and installation of a traffic signal at the Beach and Commercial Street intersection.
The agency is seeking public input prior to completion of the final plans for the proposed Rail Corridor and Existing Laydown Yard Expansion. Representatives of the Maine Department of Transportation will hold a meeting on Wednesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. in the State of Maine Room at City Hall to listen to concerns, receive comments and answer questions from anyone with an interest in the project.
The project consists of a rail corridor and an existing lay down area improvement to the International Marine Terminal, explained Joel Kittredge, project manager with the Maine Department of Transportation bridge program.
The lay down area is where containers are stored on the site while in transit, he said.
"This project is to bring rail corridor to the IMT facility, we have trucking, we have shipping, we have air, and bringing the rail would be making it a fully multimodal facility," Kittredge said.
"We are going to be signalizing the intersection at West Commercial Street and Beach Street, that's probably going to be the biggest change that people will see," Kittredge said.
The agency is seeking funding sources for the estimated $5 million project. Maine DOT plans to advertise it in June. Construction is slated to start this year, and the contractor will finish construction in 2015, based on the plans.
"It's going to be a great project, it's going to be such a good thing for the city and for the state and for movement of goods and products to markets," Kittredge said.
"The rail will allow transport of goods and product through the IMT facility to places in Maine, throughout the United States and Europe," he said.
Nate Moulton, director of the rail program for Maine DOT, said the plan includes building a new track easterly from the Cassidy Point Road to the IMT.
"We need a different alignment, to service the port facility we need to add tracks," he said.
The rail connection would tie in the terminal to the old P.D. Merrill Sprague terminal, and tie in with the Pan Am freight mainline, Moulton said.
"They connect to the national system, once you get out of their yard and onto their system, you can go anywhere in the country," he said.
"It's new traffic, and it's significant," Moulton said of the potential increase in shipping.
"We're just making a new and modern connection with the facility," he said.
The rail connection would allow workers to load boxes directly onto rail cars on IMT property, rather than trucking down to the Sprague facility or other sites.
"Now it will come off the ship, you will be able to take some of the handling equipment at the IMT and load it directly onto a rail car," Moulton said. "It will be much more efficient."
Container service restarted at Portland's International Marine Terminal last March after the Maine Port Authority signed a contract with Icelandic shipping company, Eimskip (also known as Eimskipafélag Íslands.
The Icelandic Steamship Company, which was founded on Jan. 17 1914, according to the company website, was welcomed a year ago, when Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced that Eimskip had signed a contract with the authority to restore container service to the port.
Also, last January, the President of Iceland was in Maine, serving as keynote speaker for Maine International Trade Day. President Olafur Ragnar Grímsson said the melting of the polar ice caps was opening a northern shipping route, one that is shorter than the traditional route to the south. It's one of the main reasons the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip has made Portland it's major U.S. port of call, he said.
President Grimsson said, "It is a fascinating transformation, almost a global transformation and you are fortunate, like we are in Iceland, to be in a key position."
A vessel from Iceland, the Reykjafoss, docked in Portland for the first time on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The vessel was carrying empty containers and other equipment, from Norfolk, needed to get Eimskip operations in Portland up and running.
Patrick Arnold, director of operations and business development at the Maine Port Authority, said in the first year under Eimskip, the terminal logged 5,000 container loads a year. During that period, 70 percent of that traffic was import traffic, and 30 percent export traffic. As the port authority moves forward, officials are looking to increase next year's volumes to 6,000 container loads per year, Arnold said.
"We've already started to see that growth curve over the past six months," he said.
Much of the growth will be export traffic, Arnold said.
"We're really focused on export growth as Maine companies begin to take advantage of the service," he said.
"For any port's ability to be a player with strategic long term growth, you really need to have rail access, and that's specifically intermodal rail access," Arnold said.
Moulton agreed that rail access is critical for export opportunities.
"The goal will be to allow Maine shippers to utilize this service to move Maine products on the international market," he said.
The state is promoting these trade opportunities. On Maine International Trade Day, Thursday, May 15, at Cross Insurance Center, 515 Main St., Bangor, the theme is "the New North."
Then, in June, Gov. Paul LePage, the newly-formed Maine North Atlantic Development Office at the Maine International Trade Center, and the U.S. Commercial Service will embark on a weeklong trade mission to Reykjavik and London "and leverage the resources of Maine's excellent and supportive network partnerships with Eimskip, OCO Global in London and the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik," the trade center reported.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 02:13