Friday, March 15, 2002

CWRP invests in wetlands

Published in Interface Business News

PORTLAND—Taking advantage of federal grant money and their own corporate resources, about 15 Maine companies have invested nearly $500,000 in cash and services for the Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP), to protect, rehabilitate and protect Maine’s wetlands. The benefits are not just for the environment, but for the businesses themselves.

Jeff Simmons, senior environmental scientist at the Yarmouth office of Bedford, N.H.-based Normandeau Associates, said he gets to work with firms he might otherwise compete with or not interact with very much.

“From a business perspective, it’s a smart thing to do,” Simmons said. But it also has personal and professional payoffs.

“As a resident of Maine and as a wetlands scientist this is something that’s near and dear to my heart,” he said.

The CWRP is part of larger regional and national efforts to protect wetlands, and is supported by large federal grant budgets, matching every private dollar with up to $3 in federal money.

While a good matching deal, currently worth $2 million overall, the private dollars can be hard to come by.

The lead company in Maine is Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, based in Boston, Mass. Patrick Hester, senior vice president and general counsel for Maritimes & Northeast, said the program started in Massachusetts in the past couple of years, and expanded to Maine shortly thereafter.

Hester was able to raise support among companies Maritimes & Northeast has worked with in Maine.

They have started with the “easy wins,” projects Hester described as nearly complete. “If we or somebody else didn’t come along, the project would still be sitting there,” Hester said.

“It is good community involvement and good corporate stewardship,” according to Bill Hubbard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of sixteen federal agencies that are involved in wetlands preservation under the federal Coastal America program.

David Warren, managing partner of Verrill & Dana in Portland, agrees. “We have a very strong desire to contribute to the community,” Warren said.

Gil Paquette, senior manager of Duke Engineering and Services in Portland, said not only does it feel good too do a project like this, but through contact with agencies and regulators, “it strengthens our ability in the permitting arena as well.”

Even Verizon Maine, based in Portland but a subsidiary of New York-based Verizon, got involved, though the environmental nature of the CWRP falls outside its normal commnunity focus on literacy programs.

Dan Breton, director of public affairs for Verizon Maine, said the company’s employees and customers care deeply about the environment, providing a major impetus for the company to spend money on wetlands.

Cito Selinger, managing partner of Curtis Thaxter Stevens Broder & Micoleau, a law firm in Portland, said that not only are they able to use their firm's specialization, but they can simultaneously support a major initiative of a client company, Maritimes & Northeast, and do some good as well.

“Development has got to be done sensibly,” Selinger said. “We don’t want to see the state developed in a bad way,” Selinger said.

Charles Hewett, vice president of Pittsfield-based Cianbro, agreed with Selinger.

“It’s something that we’ve done to be a good corporate citizen,” Hewett said.

Companies wanting to get involved in the Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership should contact Marylee Hanley at Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline at 1-617-560-1573.