If you could sum up the first session of the 129th Maine legislature in one word, it would have to be SUCCESS! Maine lakes were the beneficiaries of many positive and proactive new laws that will come online in the years ahead. Thanks to everyone who spoke up at a hearing, wrote an email to a legislator, or met with legislators in person to get things done this session. Your voice was heard and the message was loud and clear: Maine lakes must be kept clean and clear for all the people (and wildlife) who use them!
LD 959 – An Act to Increase Funding for the Maine Lake Society “Lake Smart” Program and the Lake Stewards of Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, sponsored by Denny Keschl, was by far the most exciting bill for MLS this session. This bill enjoyed unanimous committee support and found its way off the Appropriations Table and into the current budget thanks to the support of so many of you who spoke up, and showed up, at the legislature! The new law provides an additional $75K to both MLS for the statewide LakeSmart program and to the Lake Stewards of Maine for their lake monitoring work. The additional funds will allow us to better support our regional coordinators, expand the geographic reach of LakeSmart, and help sustain the on-going LakeSmart program costs. A most exciting success for lake conservation!
LD 216 – An Act To Protect Water Quality by Standardizing the Law Concerning Septic Inspection in the Shoreland Zone: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Fay, passed the House 97-45 and went under the hammer in the senate. The bill will expand requirements for septic inspections for all property transfers in the Shoreland Zone, an important step to strengthening protections of lake water quality. While there was debate about the rigor of the septic inspection process, the Department of Health and Human Services will be looking to strengthen that program over the coming year. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
LD 562 – An Act To Improve Shoreland Zoning Rules and Enforcement To Support Municipalities: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Lydia Blume, passed the house 94-48 and went under the hammer in the Senate. It will increase maximum fines for Shoreland Zone violations (from $5,000 to $10,000 max per day) and will require pre- and post-construction photos of shoreline vegetation and development sites be sent to the municipal permitting authority. Requiring photo documentation of shoreline vegetation has long been a goal of ours, so it’s exciting to see this bill succeed!
LD 235 – An Act to Increase Funding to Contain and Manage the Spread of Invasive Aquatic Species, sponsored by Rep. Walter Riseman, will increase fees for the Lake and River Protection sticker. Starting in January of 2020, residents will pay $5 more for a Lake and River Protection stickers. Non-residents will see an increase of $15 as of January 2020 and another $10 as of January 2022. It got a strong vote out of committee, and went under the hammer in both the house and senate. Funding invasive species work is critical to keeping invasives out of our lakes, and has lagged behind the growing need. This bill will increase much-needed funding for the municipalities and non-profit organizations that are working to monitor and manage invasive species on Maine’s lakes.
LD 1775 – An Act To Protect Sustenance Fishing, sponsored by Speaker Sarah Gideon, will create sustenance fishing as a designated use on certain river segments where there is or may be sustenance fishing or increased fish consumption by members of the Indian tribes in Maine or other Maine citizens. This bill also requires that the Department of Environmental Protection adopt routine technical rules no later than March 1, 2020 that calculate and establish water quality criteria protective of human health for toxic pollutants and the sustenance fishing designated use as established by this bill. The bill passed overwhelmingly by 35 to 0 in the Senate, and 132-4 in the House.
LD 1679 – An Act To Establish the Maine Climate Change Council To Assist Maine To Mitigate, Prepare for and Adapt to Climate Change, sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome, creates a diverse and inclusive Climate Change Council, with six working groups and a Scientific and Technical Subcommittee that will recommend strategies to “assist Maine to mitigate, prepare for and adapt to climate change.” Those recommendations will help the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) update Maine’s Climate Action Plan to decrease our reliance on fossil fuel imports to generate electricity; create new jobs in Maine in energy efficiency, battery storage, and renewable energy; and spur innovation in electric transportation. It will benefit Maine’s forestry industries by implementing strategies such as increased use of wood as a building material and benefit our farmers and landowners by encouraging them to manage their lands to maximize carbon sequestration.
Thanks for your help with “Dirty Water” Advocacy!
As a result of our federal campaign to get the word out about the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act, we submitted a letter to our delegation in Washington, D.C. with 170 signatories asking them to speak up and end attempts to weaken the act. We had two pieces published in local papers by board members (Peter Kallin’s in the Maine Voices section of the Press Herald and Matt Scott’s as a Letter to the Editor in the Bangor Daily News). We are not sure how many individuals entered comments directly into the Federal Register, but we know the voices to protect Maine’s lakes were strong. Thanks for all you did to speak up on the federal level for Maine’s clean and healthy lakes.
Credit to Maine Audubon (www.maineaudubon.org/advocacy) for sharing much of this information found on this page.