Bond Would Support Maine Jobs, Clean Water, Wildlife Habitat
March 18, 2014
A diverse coalition of organizations and lawmakers gathered at the State House Tuesday afternoon to call for passage of The Clean Water and Safe Communities Act (LD1455), a $50 million bond that would provide funds to allow investment in natural and built infrastructure that provides water-related benefits for communities across Maine.
“Maine’s water resources are critical assets that support our economy and quality of life,” said Rep. Jeff McCabe, Assistant Majority Leader D-Skowhegan, sponsor of LD1455. “This is a jobs, clean water and wildlife bond that will have an immediate, measurable impact on Maine’s natural resources,” he said.
If approved by voters, bond funds will be split between investments in:
Built Infrastructure, including stream crossing (culvert) upgrades, stormwater management projects, and irrigation system enhancements;
Natural Infrastructure, including the conservation or restoration of drinking water aquifers, headwater forests, freshwater and coastal wetlands, lakes and ponds, rivers, streams and their floodplains; and
Maine’s Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds to secure federal dollars to upgrade the state’s drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities.
“Putting Mainers to work is our top priority,” said Rep. Ken Fredette, Minority Leader, R-Newport. “This bond will make sound investments in creating and preserving jobs in areas like construction, tourism, fisheries and engineering to strengthen Maine’s long-term economic base and competitive advantage.”
Recent bipartisan polling suggests that nearly seven in ten Mainers would support funding these important priorities, with strong support from voters of both parties and from all regions of the state.
“Clean drinking water and great recreational opportunities make Maine attractive to businesses and to families, and protecting these resources now has clear economic benefit,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.
That financial gain will begin immediately, and can be expected to continue for decades to come, coalition members said.
“This work can help Maine in the long term by conserving our resources, but within months, this bond will begin to create jobs for the construction workers, environmental consultants and others who will be hired by these funds,” said Matthew Marks, Chief Executive Officer of the Associated General Contractors of Maine.
“Jobs with engineering and construction firms are some of the best in Maine and this funding will put these professionals to work,” said Jim Wilson, President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine. “This is particularly important today, due to the economic downturn, as companies struggle to regain their pre-recession strength.”
“If passed, this state funding would trigger some $25 million in federal match to invest in Maine’s drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities,” said Jeff McNelly, Executive Director of the Maine Water Utilities Association. “Moreover, the legislation facilitates conservation in watersheds, thus allowing public water supplies to continue to provide abundant, clean, and affordable water to the citizens of our state for generations to come.”
Recreation businesses, too, benefit from well-managed water resources – from fishing guides to boat manufacturers, small campgrounds to large outfitters, coalition members said.
“Protecting habitat for native brook trout, waterfowl and other species that drive Maine’s outdoor recreation economy and attract millions of tourists is tremendously important for our state,” said David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
And people, too benefit from improving habitat, coalition members said.
“This bill takes a practical and innovative approach to creating jobs and solving problems now, while also making sure that valuable resources like clean water and wildlife are safeguarded for future generations,” said Alex Mas, Director of Strategic Initiatives for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Protecting and restoring rivers, marshes and other wetlands can be a cost-effective means of helping communities prepare for extreme storms and flood events.”
The proposed bond language reads:
“Do you favor a fifty million dollar bond issue to ensure clean water and safe communities across Maine; to protect drinking water sources; to help towns and cities to better prepare for extreme storms and floods; to protect, enhance and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, wetlands and fish, game and wildlife habitat; to create jobs and vital public infrastructure; and to strengthen the State's competitive advantage and long term economy?”
If approved, the funds from this bond would be granted to cities, towns, community groups and conservation organization across the state via a competitive grant process. The bill establishes the Water Resources Board, to award these grants. The board would be made up of members if the public as well as the Commissioners of the Departments of: Environmental Protection, Health and Human Services, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Marine Resources, Transportation, and Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
This bill is a top priority for Maine’s Environmental Priority Coalition (EPC), a partnership of 28 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations representing over 100,000 members. This is the tenth year the EPC has united to protect the good health, good jobs and quality of life that Maine’s environment provides to all of us.
"Passing this bill is an essential step in protecting clean drinking water resources, helping communities safeguard themselves against extreme storms and flooding, and conserving fisheries and wildlife for future generations,” said Maureen Drouin, Executive Director of Maine Conservation Alliance and EPC spokeswoman.
Speakers at Tuesday’s event included: Ben Gilman, Maine Chamber of Commerce; David Trahan, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine; Matthew Marks, Associated General Contractors of Maine; Alex Mas, The Nature Conservancy in Maine; Jeff McNelly, Maine Water Utility Association and bipartisan representation from the Maine Legislature.
Cosponsors of LD 1455 include: Sen. Jim Boyle, D-Cumberland; Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Cumberland; Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York; Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook; Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Franklin; Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham; Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton and Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade.
The Clean Water and Safe Communities Coalition includes Associated General Contractors of Maine, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Water Utilities Association, American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine, The Nature Conservancy, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Southern Maine Regional Water Council, Maine Wastewater Control Associations, Northern Maine Development Commission, Maine Rural Water Association, Maine Lakes Society, Maine Audubon, Environmental Priorities Coalition, GrowSmart Maine, Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Androscoggin Land Trust, Bangor Land Trust, Kennebec Land Trust and others. Learn more at www.cleanwaterformaine.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. 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.