Maine Yankee was a huge presence on the midcoast waterfront for many years. Now the nuclear plant is gone, leaving behind a lot of high-level waste but something positive as well: an opportunity for the town of Wiscasset to demonstrate how this kind of site can be redeveloped for other uses.

In fact, there are two “brownfields” sites in Wiscasset, one where Maine Yankee was located, and another where Mason Station, a coal-fired plant converted to oil, dominated the waterfront just downriver from town.

To their credit, the town, a volunteer committee and the new owner of the former plant sites are energetically developing plans to make these riverfront properties useful in new and different ways: a “maritime village” including, as Bob Moore reports elsewhere in this issue, “new mixed office and light industrial development, single and multi-family housing, boardwalks, retail shops, offices, a culinary institute, and full service marina.” A new industrial park is moving ahead; there’s talk of a pedestrian connection to the existing village.

The late Ed Myers, whose columns distinguished this paper for many years, was once taken to task for writing about Maine Yankee in a waterfront newspaper – the critic contended that the nuclear power plant had nothing to do with fishing or coastal access or waterfront business. The criticism, which Ed refuted in his inimitable no-nonsense way, was a reminder that the connections between the waterfront and everywhere else aren’t always obvious or well understood. So we’ll point them out again: Maine Yankee generated a lot of electricity, but it exposed midcoast Maine to genuine risk. It paid lots of taxes, but its benefits were largely limited to one town. It cooled itself with lots of Sheepscot River water, but discharged warmer water – with well-documented environmental effects – back into the river. It left us with a legacy of nuclear waste.

The redevelopment efforts at Maine Yankee and Mason Station will demonstrate, if they’re successful, that waterfronts are as adaptable as ever, and that a community can redeem its inheritance through creativity and imagination.