January 9, 2018
Senator James Hamper
Representative Drew Gattine
Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs
c/o Office of Fiscal and Program Review 5 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333
Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 1510: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Fund Wastewater Infrastructure Projects for Ratification by Voters
Dear Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine and Distinguished Members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs,
Friends of Casco Bay submits this letter in support of LD 1510: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Fund Wastewater Infrastructure Projects for Ratification by Voters. We respectfully request that the committee unanimously recommend that LD 1510 “Ought to Pass.”
Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the water quality of Casco Bay. We have several thousand members and volunteers who rely upon Casco Bay for their livelihoods, recreation, and solace. For over a quarter century, we have monitored the health of Casco Bay and advocated for solutions that eliminate or reduce pollution to the Bay. During this time, we have pressed for upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities and elimination of overboard discharges (OBDs) from the shores of Casco Bay.* Our monitoring and sampling data informs our advocacy. We use our scientific data to identify areas of concern and then advocate for stricter pollution permit limits and other measures that reduce pollution to the Bay. The solutions to water pollution may require costly upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities and/or funding to remove OBDs. We strongly support greater public funding for these upgrades because these benefit all Mainers through improved water quality, which opens increased commercial fishing and recreational opportunities.
In many instances, the improvements needed to wastewater treatment facilities cost more than municipal taxpayers can bear. State and federal funds have traditionally supplemented and must continue to supplement municipal budgets to improve and protect water quality in compliance with the Clean Water Act. To that end, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administers the collaborative federal-state Clean Water State Revolving Fund which provides
low interest loans to acquire, plan, design, construct, enlarge, repair and/or improve publicly-owned sewage collection systems, interceptor sewers, pumping stations, and wastewater treatment plants. In addition, the program funds public and private nonpoint source water quality protection and improvement projects. DEP also provides grants for the removal of individual OBDs. The OBD grant program helped eliminate OBDs into the New Meadows River, enabling the State to open clam flats that had been closed for years. It also has financed removal of OBDs on islands in Casco Bay, but more work remains to be done.
The $50,000,000 bond will provide funds to help finance both programs. From 1992 through 2009, Maine consistently funded these programs. It has not supported a bond since then.
This lack of funding has contributed to a one billion dollar backlog of necessary wastewater treatment facility upgrades. The bond will provide $47,650,000 in direct funding toward the backlog, which includes upgrades to the Portland, Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Westbrook wastewater facilities** Portland’s and Yarmouth’s wastewater facilities discharge into waters that show indications of impairment. Both are well-run facilities that need funds to finance upgrades so that they can remain compliant with their Clean Water Act permits and adapt to future management needs.
The balance of the bond will finance further elimination of OBDs and failed septic systems.
The bond also will leverage additional federal and state funds, totaling approximately $121,475,000.
For the above reasons, Friends of Casco Bay respectfully requests that the Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1510 “Ought to Pass.”
Thank you for considering our testimony.
Ivy L. Frignoca
Friends of Casco Bay
CC: Marianne MacMaster
* Overboard discharges (OBDs) occur when homes or businesses discharge sanitary and household wastewater to streams, rivers, bays, and the ocean. OBDs must be licensed by the DEP.
** These municipalities were among many in Maine that reported needed upgrades in response to EPA’s 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS). The CWNS is an assessment of capital investment needed for publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act.