Yesterday, Maine Audubon staff biologist Sarah Haggerty and I testified in support of two important bond bills. LDs 178 and 1510 would support improvements to Maine’s wastewater infrastructure and protect water quality for Maine wildlife and people. You can learn more about each bill by reading our testimony below.
The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee room was relatively full — a good indicator of public interest in and support for a bond bill. What was more impressive, however, was the variety of people that spoke in support of the bonds. The Committee heard from the Association of General Contractors, a representative of the Wastewater Division for the City of Westbrook, an engineer from Wright Pierce, as well as the Maine Lake Society and other environmental organizations.
As I expressed in my testimony, Maine Audubon is proud to be a part of a broad coalition of stakeholders that supports these bonds. It’s a strong demonstration that a healthy environment, vibrant communities, and a growing economy go hand-in-hand.
Here are the details on these two bond bills:
- LD 178 would authorize a proposed $5 million bond that would target nonpoint source pollution (think road salt and fertilizer) by improving road infrastructure. Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection administers this existing grant program that has a proven track record of providing jobs, increasing public safety, and improving water quality.
- LD 1510 would authorize a proposed $50 million bond that would fund wastewater infrastructure and water quality grant programs. Maine has an estimated $1 billion backlog of sorely needed improvements and at a time when the Trump Administration is making enormous cuts to the EPA’s budget, it’s more important than ever that Maine people support clean water.
And get ready: if these bills are treated favorably by the Committee, we’ll be asking you soon to encourage your legislators to support these important efforts to keep Maine’s water clean.
Testimony in Support of LD 178, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources
Public Hearing Before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Good afternoon Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, and members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. My name is Sarah Haggerty and I am a conservation biologist with Maine Audubon. On behalf of Maine Audubon’s 30,000 members and supporters, I offer our support of LD 178, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Jobs, Improve Road Infrastructure and Protect Water Resources.
This bond proposal serves to protect Maine’s valuable water resources while providing jobs for Maine contractors to improve road infrastructure. The funding mechanism is modeled on the existing federal Clean Water Act Section 319 program, which provides funding to states to keep nonpoint source pollution from entering our water resources. The existing program has provided approximately $1.75 million to Maine annually and is administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This bond would provide an additional $1 million of annual state funds, all requiring local matching funds. At a time of great uncertainty over the federal budget, this money would allow the DEP to continue to administer a program with a proven track record of providing jobs, increasing public safety, and improving water quality.
Nonpoint source pollution has a major impact on Maine’s waterways. It is pollution that comes from many different sources, and includes sediment from erosion, nutrients from fertilizers, bacteria from failing septic systems, and pollutants from roadways. With rain and snow, these pollutants are carried into our lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal waters. For example, salt and sand are used to keep us safe on the roadways in winter, but without proper road construction, that salt and sediment can run off into our favorite places to swim, fish, and boat, and even into our water supplies. Nutrients from fertilizers and animal waste can run into our lakes and cause problematic algal blooms, which can impact property values and impair wildlife habitat. When water quality goes down Maine’s iconic wildlife species like Brook Trout and Loons can be affected. Algal blooms decrease the amount of oxygen in a lake, impacting fish, especially “cold-water fish” such as trout and salmon that are very active fish and need lots of oxygen. Visual underwater predators like the Common Loon have difficulty securing food when visibility is reduced, either by algal blooms or from suspended sediments in the water. Maine wildlife need clean, clear water and proper infrastructure can help deliver it.
Through our Stream Smart work, which encourages aquatic habitat connectivity through culvert and bridge upgrades, Maine Audubon has built strong relationships with soil and water conservation districts (SWCD), municipalities, and public works crews. They’ve told us that the program this bond would fund works—it provides much needed money for maintenance and infrastructure work, and at the same time it improves water quality and road safety in their communities. Michelle Windsor, from the Oxford County SWCD says it’s an effective way to get real work done on the ground, and that it aligns perfectly with their mission to protect the soil and water in their community. She described work currently being funded by 319 grant money on North Pond in Norway that supports the SWCD, pays road contractors, and brings private landowners, the town, and the lake association together towards a common goal of reducing erosion and runoff to improve water quality. Zack Steele at the Hancock County SWCD says working on 319 projects also provides an opportunity to build community awareness and cooperation that can increase capacity for other projects in the future. Using this cooperative approach, willing property owners install incentive-based solutions that address water quality issues. Because much of the nonpoint source pollution addressed with 319 grant money comes from roadways, this program directly supports road contractors hired to repair roadways and implement Best Management Practices for avoiding nonpoint source pollution.
The bond proposed in LD 178 strengthens an existing program that has proven to be effective. Towns from Saco to Bangor to Mars Hill have benefited from 319 grants over the years, and sediment and pollutant loads in Maine’s waterways have been reduced by thousands of tons across the state. We urge you to continue to invest in Maine municipalities, roadways, and water quality by supporting LD 178.
Thank you for your consideration.
Testimony in Support of LD 1510, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Fund Wastewater Infrastructure Projects for Ratification by Voters in the June 2017 Election
Public Hearing Before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Good afternoon Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, and members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. My name is Eliza Donoghue and I represent Maine Audubon and our 30,000 members and supporters in support of LD 1510, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Fund Wastewater Infrastructure Projects for Ratification by Voters in the June 2017 Election.
LD 1510 would authorize a proposed $50 million bond that would fund three wastewater infrastructure and water quality grant programs at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These programs provide grants to update municipal and quasi-municipal wastewater infrastructure such as treatment plants, pump stations, and sewer systems, remove overboard discharges, and repair or replace malfunctioning septic systems that impact surface water. This bond is about keeping Maine’s water clean for the benefit of Maine people, wildlife, and habitat. It’s also about creating and sustaining Maine jobs.
Investing in wastewater infrastructure benefits Maine’s wildlife and habitat. Eighty-five percent of Maine vertebrate species either live in aquatic habitats throughout their lives or use aquatic habitats or habitats adjacent to ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, and the coast throughout the course of a year to find food, breed, and travel. Compared with other states, Maine has relatively clean water, and as a result, Maine is the last stronghold in the eastern U.S. for wild brook trout and the only state that still has a population of endangered Atlantic salmon. We want to keep it this way. However, these species face a number of challenges so whatever we can do to reduce the risks they face is extremely helpful. Malfunctioning septic systems and substandard wastewater treatment facilities pollute the aquatic habitats these and other wildlife species depend on. We have the technology to fix this – we just need funding.
Of course, Maine people need clean water too. For many years, the Maine legislature and Maine voters consistently supported bonds for programs that upgrade treatment plants, pump stations, sewer systems, and repair or replace malfunctioning sewer systems that impact surface water. These programs have not been funded since 2009, resulting in an approximate $1 billion backlog in wastewater treatment investments. At a time of uncertainty over federal efforts to safeguard clean water, Maine needs to step up to protect one our state’s most important assets.
This bond will create jobs. The DEP estimates that 900 jobs, from construction to engineering, will be created or sustained from the bond funds and 2,186 jobs will be created or sustained from the combined bond and leveraged state and federal funds. The bond’s estimated leveraging potential is 150% or more. That is a sound investment.
Maine Audubon is proud to be a part of a broad coalition of stakeholders that support this bond. From municipal officials that care about protecting their community’s drinking water supply to shellfish harvesters whose haul can be devastated by combined sewer overflows, we’re hardly alone in recognizing the importance of keeping Maine’s water clean. We urge you to support LD 1510.