Water Level Bill Raises Concerns

Water level issues on Maine’s great ponds raise major concerns for a long list of stakeholders. These include lake shorefront property owners and lake associations, state agencies, organizations and individuals concerned with maintaining navigable waterways and habitat for fishes, birds and other wildlife in and on surface and coastal waters, anglers, hunters and other recreationists,municipalities dependent upon lakefront property tax revenues to provide needed services, the Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Marine Resources, and Environmental Protection which is charged with maintaining water quality standards and the designated uses of great ponds existing as of 1978 under the anti-degradation clause of the Clean Water Act, as well as all Maine citizens – to whom these waters belong.

LD 1566, An Act Concerning the Establishment of Water Levels, seeks to change Maine’s existing water level law by requiring 3rd party mediation before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection MEDEP) holds the required adjudicatory hearing to settle such water level disputes.  LD 1566 also introduces a new and substantial cost for such a hearing of up to $20,000.

Read MLS Board President Peter Kallin’s testimony: LD 1566 – Water Levels 02-10-16 Testimony

We oppose LD 1566 because the high cost of mediation and newly monetized adjudicatory process effectively cancel the right of citizens to petition the state for redress of environmental harm. The current, entirely satisfactory, law assures the constitutional right of citizens to equal protection under the law because it requires MEDEP Commissioner  to hold adjudicatory hearings when petitioners seek redress of environmental harm, and it should not be altered to lessen those rights. LD 1566 effectively removes those rights by imposing such a high cost barrier as to nullify citizens’ ability to exercise them.  This will negatively impact the voluntary grassroots lake associations dedicated to protecting lake water quality, wildlife habitat, and the social, economic and recreational benefits of Maine’s great ponds.

LD 1566 will be heard by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on February 10 in Room 216 of the Cross Office Building, Augusta.  If water levels concern you, if you don’t want the water level law changed, if you wish to protect citizens’ rights to petition the state for redress of environmental harm, please write to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee via the Clerk of the Committee or testify in person.  You can also follow the hearing live on Wednesday Morning.

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