With the new year upon us, we're looking into the future to see what things will be making Maine better in the coming 12 months. Here's a selection of things we'll be watching — and you should, too.
It's said that destruction is a form of creation, and we'll have a great example of that adage here in Maine in 2012. The Great Works dam on the Penobscot River (the second-largest river system in New England) will be dismantled this summer as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, a collaboration between the Penobscot Indian Nation, a hydropower corporation, several conservation groups, and government agencies. That's a good thing.
Over the years, hydropower dams erected along the river have messed with several migratory fish populations (the Penobscot used to host a significant population of wild Atlantic salmon), as well as economic livelihoods, cultural traditions, and ecosystems. The removal of two dams (Great Works in 2012, and Veazie in 2013) and the creation of new fish passage at a third, combined with an increase of power-generation at remaining dams, ensures that this idea balances the needs of the fish with the needs of the people, as Misty Edgecomb of the Nature Conservancy puts it.
Phoning it in
Three different Maine community agencies will benefit from close to $500,000 for rural medical services this year, thanks to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grants through the US Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development. Telemedicine — the use of video-conferencing, smart phones, remote data-collection, and other tech tools to provide care and diagnosis — is a crucial piece of health care in Maine, where approximately 70 percent of the hospitals report using some form of it, according to the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
The grant will fund additional home health-care monitors and computer equipment in central, western, and mid-coast Maine (through Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice), as well as video conferencing capacity on the Sunbeam, a large ship operated by the Maine Sea Coast Mission that provides health-care services to remote island communities Downeast.
"The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program is vital to providing rural health-care organizations with the state-of-the-art telemedicine technology necessary to provide quality health care to residents in rural areas of Maine," says USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel. "From providing island health-care providers with access to specialized cameras, scopes, monitors, and advanced diagnostic software to providing laptops for home care clinicians to connect with primary care physicians, telemedicine technology is having a major impact on health-care services in rural Maine."