Testimony of Maggie Shannon for Maine Lakes Society in favor of LD 839: An Act to Increase Conservation District Funding
Good afternoon, Senator Edgecomb, Representative Hickman, and Distinguished Members of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee. My name is Maggie Shannon; I live in Rome, and I am the Executive Director of the Maine Lakes Society and Coordinator of the LakeSmart Homeowner and Education Program. Founded in 1970 as the Congress of Lake Associations, today the Maine Lake Society represents well over 12,000 individuals committed to lake conservation. We are the only statewide membership organization dedicated to preserving the benefits and value of Maine lakes; we strongly support LD 839 and ask you to do so for the following reasons:
- The technical expertise the Districts provide makes them the “go-to” source of technical assistance not only for Maine DEP in developing lake watershed plans, but for lake associations, watershed alliances, road associations, and private individuals seeking to protect lake water quality, develop gravel road maintenance plans. monitor lake water quality and implement invasive plant surveys.
- LakeSmart is a highly successful, ground-breaking social marketing program that educates and rewards homeowners for implementing Best Management Practices in lake shorelands. We have administered the program since taking it over from DEP 2013. This year, it will be active on 45 lakes in 8 Maine counties. The technical capacity, geographical distribution, and trust placed in the Districts by local lake activists make them essential to LakeSmart’s continued rapid expansion in developing watersheds.
- Because the Districts are locally-led, their place-based expertise fits the specific conservation needs of their location. The 15 offices enjoythe benefits of scale while providing geographically appropriate services, not cookie-cutter ‘almost-fits.’ Districts work through lake associations, watershed alliances, and road associations to protect water quality so their expertise has a multiplier effect.
As a home owner and lake association past president in a developing 7-lake watershed where 3 ponds are impaired, 4 at-risk, and 2 infested with variable leaf milfoil, I have benefited personally and seen the watershed’s 5 lake associations and one watershed alliance benefit from the technical services the Kennebec SWCD provides. 319 mitigation projects have funded over $500,000 work on the ground in my home watershed, benefitting the lakes, paying local contractors, and helping property owners. On 3 occasions since 1998, I have received low-cost technical advice to manage drainage issues on my ¼ mile road and driveway. Mark Twain is credited with saying “Whiskey is for drinking, Water is for fighting,” which I’d amend to private ways are for fighting. Yet, my road today has an association, a 5-year maintenance plan and has had three additional significant technical plans provided by KCSWCD.
We all do more with less today, but the fact that these highly valuable agencies have not received a cost of living adjustment in a decade must be remedied. The Districts’ water quality work alone, compared to the value of the resource their services protect, would justify this funding increase: Maine lakes generate over $3.5 in economic activity yearly, provide drinking water to half our population and employment to 52,000 Maine citizens – more than any single employer in the state.
We urge you to vote unanimously in favor of LD 839. Thank you for this opportunity.