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Clean Water Bond under Evaluation by Appropriations Committee

Crucial recommendation will be made in next 24 hours. Now is the time to contact committee legislators to voice support.


AUGUSTA, ME | June 13, 2013

Senator Majority Leader Seth Goodall’s clean water bond, LD 1455, currently is undergoing evaluation by the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. Within the next 24 hours, the Committee will issue a recommendation to the Legislature for or against the $50 million bond proposal, designed to invest in natural and built infrastructure that provides water-related benefits for communities across Maine.

The Conservancy is in favor of LD 1455 and encourages Maine residents to contact their representatives on the Committee immediately to voice their support for a recommendation of the bond. If passed, Maine voters will have the opportunity to vote on the water bond this November.

Contact information for committee members can be found at http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jt_com/afa.htm. Maine residents also can look up names and contact information for their local representatives at http://cleanwaterformaine.org.

On June 12, The Nature Conservancy in Maine’s senior policy advisor, Thomas Abello, testified in support of LD 1455 to the Appropriations Committee. His testimony was as follows:

Testimony before the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs
By Thomas Abello, Senior Policy Advisor for The Nature Conservancy
June 12, 2013

Re: LD1455 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Ensure Clean Water and Safe Communities

Senator Hill, Representative Rotundo, members Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs my name is Thomas Abello. I am a Senior Policy Advisor for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1455, An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Ensure Clean Water and Safe Communities.

The Nature Conservancy is a science-based international, nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. We work in all 50 states and in 31 countries and are supported by more than one million members. The Conservancy has been working in Maine for some 57 years and is the 12th largest landowner in the state, owning and managing some 280,000 acres. We also work across the state to restore rivers and with fishermen in the Gulf of Maine to rebuild groundfish populations.

First off, I would like to thank the bill sponsor, Senator Goodall, and its cosponsors Senators Hill, Saviello, Boyle, Jackson and Haskell and Representatives Berry, McCabe, Black and Keschl.

This proposal is a $50 million bond to invest in drinking water supplies, flood protection and stormwater management projects in communities across Maine. These investments in water-related projects are cost effective solutions that spur economic growth and save money in the long-term.

The bill seeks to fund investments in built and natural infrastructure projects. LD 1455 outlines “built infrastructure” as investments in stream crossing (culvert) upgrades, Low Impact Development stormwater management projects, and irrigation system enhancements which improve the efficiency of water use by farmers. “Natural infrastructure” includes the conservation or restoration of high priority lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater sources, wetlands and headwater forests. The bill outlines a 50/50 funding split between the two.

Investment in this type of infrastructure will ensure a statewide supply of abundant and high quality drinking water, mitigate flood damage, manage stormwater, and ensure adequate culvert construction. These investments will conserve habitat for recreational fisheries, waterfowl, and other important fish and wildlife species. It will strengthen Maine’s long-term economic base and competitive advantage, create and preserve jobs, especially in the areas of construction, tourism, fisheries, and environmental engineering, and save money by mitigating future infrastructure needs.

The introduction of LD 1455 comes on the heels of a new report "An Assessment of the Economics of Natural and Built Infrastructure for Water Resources in Maine" from researchers at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. Co-authors Charles Colgan, Damon Yakovleff, and Samuel Merrill conclude that "Maine's most essential resource" can be best managed through a combination of promoting the conservation of existing natural systems and constructing "lower-cost decentralized structures." The Executive Summary is attached to my testimony.

The Colgan report shows that investments in stream buffers, culvert upgrades, wetland restoration, and sustainable forestry can be significantly less expensive than building new filtration systems.

Investments in replacing and upgrading culverts are one of the highest priorities for municipalities, state agencies, The Nature Conservancy and conservation groups. This type of funding is the missing piece. Statewide, culverts play a critical role in Maine’s transportation system, providing water passage and drainage beneath roads or other crossings. Moreover, blocked or poorly-sized culverts obstruct passage for fish species such as brook trout and a host of wildlife species. According to a recent report, there are approximately 35,000 culverts in Maine, and a large percentage would not be able to accommodate expected increases in precipitation. By funding municipalities and others to act in sensible ways now, we are also working to ensure passage and habitat for migratory fish species, like brook trout and alewives.

The report also examines the effectiveness of stormwater management techniques designed to mimic the way natural areas work, such as street trees or rain gardens that can help treat stormwater run-off, or porous paving materials that allow stormwater to be absorbed by the ground. These so called “Low Impact Development” techniques, take pressure off of built systems, which is especially critical in highly developed urban areas.

Protecting surface and groundwater is important, not only because it provides an abundant and consistent source of clean water throughout Maine, but also because it attenuates the need to use funds to build and maintain costly filtration systems. This will, in the end, save money while increasing the health of our clam flats and coastal systems.

To evaluate the impact that natural areas could have in flood damage protection and stormwater management, the Colgan report created a simulation of risks in three York County watersheds: the Branch Brook/Merriland River, the Kennebunk River, and the Mousam River. They found that investing an estimated $15 million to conserve important natural areas in these watersheds could provide a benefit of over $275 million in avoided flood damage costs over time.

Utilizing the nature’s ability to reduce the effects of storms and flooding while preserving wildlife habitats is a key element of this proposal. It stands as an inexpensive way to protect drinking water and manage flood waters. The maintenance of these lands requires little funding or maintenance and the benefits provided, according to the Colgan report, will be greater than the cost of the land or building alternative non-natural preventative measures.

For these reasons, The Nature Conservancy supports LD 1455, An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Ensure Clean Water and Safe Communities. Thank you again for this opportunity to participate and I am happy to answer any questions now or in the future.
 


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

Contact information

Misty Edgecomb
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in Maine
617-532-8317 (desk), 484-343-3223 (cell)
medgecomb@tnc.org


Kate Dempsey
Director of External Affairs
The Nature Conservancy in Maine
207-373-5213 (desk), 207-319-5235 (cell)
kdempsey@tnc.org

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