BAILEYVILLE – Five years ago only a handful of Baileyville residents pressed their case to have a third bridge built in this community but in the end neighboring Calais was chosen.
Shortly after the announcement in 2002, work began on the site near the city’s Industrial Park. Once completed the bridge that is expected to cost more than $100 million would cross the St. Croix River and connect Calais with St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
Years later a group called Friends of Magurrewock decided they didn’t like the process and they certainly didn’t like the results. They claim Calais stole their bridge. They want the bridge in Baileyville.
They have pressed their case with every state and federal agency and at times calling the process and the people involved “compromised and corrupted” and “cowardly and corrupt.”
At a meeting earlier this month with the Town Council, the Friends group said it needed the services of a qualified wetlands expert to counter the state expert, but said it didn’t have the money to hire one. On Monday, the town agreed to pick up the tab.
The majority of councilors voted to hire a wetlands expert to study two sites in Baileyville – one at the end of Route 9 at the former Airline Restaurant and Motel and farther up on Route 1 near the Cole Garage – to ascertain if they would be better locations. The majority members agreed to spend up to $3,500 of town money to accomplish that goal.
The two sites originally had been selected by the Maine Department of Transportation, but later rejected in favor of the Calais site. In September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it had issued its construction permit. That was the last federal hurdle the state needed to move forward with the project.
Town Manager Scott Harriman said Tuesday the town planned to hire an expert from Moyse Environmental Service of Bangor. Had the expert also reviewed the Calais site it would have cost the town $5,000. “Which we do not [want],” Harriman said.
Construction on the more than $50 million project is expected to begin in the next few months in the United States. Canada also will spend more than $50 million on the project. A new two-lane limited access road from the bridge will cross near the Calais Industrial Park to connect with U.S. Route 1 and go through the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.
The Friends fear the Calais bridge will have a negative impact on the refuge. Right now they stand alone in their position – not even refuge officials have joined in the fight.
Recently the Friends said they planned to sue the federal government and asked the town to be a party to that suit. However, town officials have not yet voted on that request.
The Calais Industrial Park was selected from among six initial possibilities that were reduced to two options; the alternative was the Baileyville intersection. Calais business leaders opposed the Baileyville location because they feared it would draw traffic away from the city and make Calais a ghost town rather than a gateway to Canada.