By the Associated Press
BANGOR, Maine –A federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday seeking to invalidate a new state law that calls for the state to maintain 11 motor vehicle access points along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
The suit, filed by Charles FitzGerald of Atkinson and Kenneth Cline of Bar Harbor, contends the state law conflicts with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a federal law under which Allagash was designated a wild river area in 1970.
The U.S. Department of the Interior limited motor vehicle access points to just two places when the 92-mile waterway was named a wild river area, according to the complaint.
But a law passed by the Legislature last year required the state to maintain 11 points along the waterway for motor vehicle access. In so doing, the state is degrading the wilderness canoeing experience along the waterway, the complaint says.
The state law also violates federal law by making permanent six bridges that had been temporary, the complaint says. When the waterway was a named a wild river in 1970, the state was authorized to allow only temporary bridges — not permanent ones — for short-term logging purposes, the suit says.
“By enacting L.D. 2077, the state has turned its back on its responsibilities to manage the Allagash as a wild river,” FitzGerald said. “The Allagash should be managed according to law, not politics.”>/p>
The suit names Willard Harris Jr., director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands under the Department of Conservation, as defendant because he is responsible for implementing the law. Conservation Department spokesman Jim Crocker said department officials could not comment because they had seen the complaint.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office, David Loughran, also said the complaint hadn’t been reviewed as of Thursday so there would be no immediate comment.
The Allagash waterway, in the heart of Maine’s North Woods, is a favorite destination for canoeists.
But friction has developed in recent years between local residents seeking recreational access to the waterway and conservationists looking to retain its wilderness character.