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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

7/21/09

Tuesday, July 21

ATLANTIC TIDES GO CRAZY

Scott Harper, Virginian-Pilot
- Scientists are closely watching unusually high tides along the entire East Coast, especially in mid-Atlantic states including Virginia, where average daily levels are running between 6 inches and 2 feet above predicted norms.

One veteran researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, John Boon, said he suspects the trend could be the beginning of a decade-long phenomenon of high water caused by an El Nino-like effect in the Atlantic.

Boon, a professor emeritus of marine science who has studied tides most of his career, described how Atlantic wind patterns and currents can subtly shift, often without explanation. The shift, in turn, pushes more water onto East Coast beaches, marshes and coastline through higher tides.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received many calls in recent weeks from concerned residents, waterfront homeowners and scientists along the East Coast, said Michael Szabados, an official with the agency.

Likewise, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, based in Gloucester Point, has fielded phone calls and e-mails from anxious residents and others who rely on the ebb and flow of daily tides, officials said. . .

The extreme tides, he and other scientists said, have occurred before and can last, on and off, for years at a time before suddenly changing back to normal.

"There's no scientific debate that these anomalous cycles happen," Boon said. "It's what causes them that's debated."

NOAA noticed the trend taking off in early June, affecting states from Maine to Florida. In Baltimore in mid-June, for example, the agency documented tides 2 feet above predicted levels.

The events are continuing, though they have slightly subsided in recent days, said Szabados, who is director of NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, based in Silver Spring, Md.

Larry Atkinson, an oceanographer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. . . said that what Hampton Roads is experiencing now will likely become the norm in 30 or 40 years due to sea level rise associated with the slow warming of ocean temperatures. "This is a little taste of the future," he said. "It basically exposes our vulnerabilities to high water."

Atkinson said people who live or work away from local creeks and rivers might not notice the change. But "ship captains can tell, and the insurance companies know what is going on," he said.

Scientists do not think the unusually high tides are due to sea level rise because, as Szabados explained, "these have happened suddenly, not slowly over time." NOAA TIDE INFO

DE SALES FOR SALE

Morning Sentinel, Waterville - St. Francis de Sales church had its dedication in 1874, a century before skyrocketing energy costs, dependence on foreign oil and a declining Catholic population in the city.
The Catholic faithful built the church with worship in mind first and foremost -- and they built it large. Now that church is for sale, and it's a hard sell.

. . . St. Francis de Sales, located on the corner of Winter and Elm streets, will have been on the market for two years this November. In that time, the parish has received inquiries but no serious offers, Hebert said.

. . . St. Francis de Sales actually is three buildings: a church, a rectory and a church hall. . . Together those structures add up to 21,388 square feet, the equivalent of more than 10 moderately-sized residential homes.

. . . The selling price is $995,000, or about $46.52 per square foot.

THE MAINE STREAM

Lost in the debate
about gay marriage is that it is overwhelmingly a freedom of religion issue. While the state may have the right to define marriage, the opposition to gays being included comes almost entirely from certain religious groups. For example, 44% of the contributions to overturn Maine's gay marriage provision comes from the Portland Catholic diocese and the Knights of Columbus. Another 9% comes from the rightwing religious group, Focus on Family. Further, the LEGAL arguments against gay marriage are almost exclusively those of Catholic or fundamentalist Christian religions and stem from religious beliefs. Thus for any state - or the federal government - to ban gay marriage is to establish a hierarchy of religions in this country, which is clearly unconstitutional. For example, a gay marriage ban officially places the Catholic Church above Unitarians or fundamentalist Christianity over Quakerism. That's against the law.

While waiting for a lawyer to take on that case, there are some other legal problems with gay marriage. . . Boston Globe: Episcopal bishops in New England and Iowa, the only parts of the nation where same-sex marriage is legal, are preparing for a wave of requests . . . In interviews, none of several bishops interviewed said they were immediately prepared to allow priests to officiate at same-sex weddings, which remain prohibited by the canons of the Episcopal Church. But, citing the denomination's decision Friday to allow bishops in states where same-sex marriage is legal to "provide generous pastoral response'' to same-sex couples, the bishops indicated that they are looking for ways to allow priests to at least celebrate, if not perform, gay nuptials in church. "The problem is the prayer book says that marriage must conform to the laws of the state and the canons of the church, but if we respond to the laws of the state, we are in violation of the canons of the church,'' said Bishop Stephen T. Lane of Maine, where the situation is further complicated by a possible referendum to overturn same-sex marriage. "We're trying to respond pastorally, but not to get so far beyond the bounds of what the church understands that our clergy are just sort of hanging out there.'' Lane also said bishops of New England, where same-sex marriage has been approved in every state but Rhode Island, are hoping to reach a common plan, because "we don't want people running back and forth between the New England states.''

A census update finds that 71% of Maine voters turned out in the last presidential election. Nationally, the figure was 63%. Maine women were about four points more likely to vote than the state's men.

Press Herald - Lobstermen along Maine's coast are talking about a possible work stoppage to start as soon as next week. Frustrated with prices that continue to sink because of weak demand, lobstermen said they might stay on shore temporarily in an effort to reduce supplies and make their catches more valuable. Lobstermen have threatened such shutdowns, known as tie-ups, in the past, and some have organized small-scale tie-ups in recent years to protest low prices or reduce excess supplies. But the fishermen also are notoriously independent, and there has not been a large-scale tie-up in decades. . . The price paid to lobstermen for their catches dropped to the lowest levels in 20 years last fall as the global economy crashed. Lobstermen are now getting between $2.60 and $3 per pound, about $1 less than last summer.

Bangor Daily News - Police arrested a 68-year-old lobsterman Monday afternoon in connection with the shooting of a fellow lobsterman on an island dock. Police say that lobster fishing was at the heart of the dispute between the two Matinicus Islanders. . .

Kennebec Journal - In a sign of the economic times, the Franklin County Children's Task Force has given its last welcome-baby bag at Franklin Memorial Hospital. For 20 years, all first-time parents at Franklin Memorial received a handmade diaper-bag tote filled with baby essentials and parenting information. But with a drop in state and private funds, the Task Force has no money left to provide the gifts. The totes were sewn by Belle Foss, of Temple, using donated material. They were packed with a baby quilt made by local quilters, diapers, baby toiletries, pacifiers, socks, washcloth, receiving blanket and a new outfit. In the past, these items were donated -- but now, even the quilters have stopped providing their cozy blankets.

Register Guard -
Oregon is about to become the first Western state to permit its farmers to grow industrial hemp. But there are a couple problems to be confronted before Oregon becomes a Hemptopia by the Pacific: It's still an illegal crop, according to the federal government. . . A spokesman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he plans to sign Oregon's new hemp legislation, Senate Bill 676, into law. When that happens, Oregon will become the seventh state to allow farmers to grow hemp. And it will be the only one in the continental United States west of the Rockies. Hawaii's governor signed a similar law this month, and Maine's governor did the same in June.

Blueberry update:
A belated but bumper crop likely.

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