Plans to reduce waterway protections, EPA research funding and pollution rules are all bad for Mainers.
by Eliot Stanley of Portland, formerly chair of the Maine Regulatory Fairness Board and a record-holding Sebago Lake angler, serves on the board of the Sebago Lake Anglers Association.
Portland Press Herald op-ed
Summer is here. It’s the time of year when I enjoy spending as much time as possible fishing in Sebago Lake.
One of my favorite things about Maine is its abundance of lakes, streams, ponds and coves where I can cast a line. A few years ago I landed the largest northern pike ever caught in Sebago, still a record at 41 inches. Sebago Lake has such outstanding water quality that it is one of only six municipal reservoirs in America not required to have its water filtered or treated, although that is done by the Portland Water District for extra public safety.
Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington is poised to deliver a one-two punch that stands to cripple efforts to protect and restore clean waters, including favorite fishing spots across Maine such as Sebago Lake.
First, the Trump administration is planning to roll back Clean Water Act protections by repealing the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This common-sense safeguard was put in place to limit pollution in our rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. Repeal of this rule would bring more pollution to streams that don’t flow year-round – almost 2 million miles of waterways across the country. These rollbacks will harm clean waters across Maine.
To add insult to injury, even Maine waters that continue to be covered by the Clean Water Act are at an increased risk, as the Trump administration and House Republicans have proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.
We rely on the EPA to carry out and enforce policies that keep our rivers, streams and drinking water supplies healthy. These cuts to the agency’s vital programs, including those that protect clean water, would hurt the EPA’s ability to do its job and stop the pollution of waterways and destruction of wetlands. Since 2010, the EPA has experienced a huge cut of 25 percent, and continuing to hollow out the agency of experienced staff and resources would harm our clean water and public health.
Among other things, these budget cuts specifically target funding for science and research, and we can’t expect to have good water protections without good science. These cuts could end up harming places like Sebago Lake – and likely a lake in your favorite corner of Maine, too.
If the Clean Water Rule is repealed as proposed, at least 55 percent of Maine’s stream miles and thousands of acres of wetlands would be at risk of pollution and destruction from development and industrial activities. A clean lake relies on clean streams that flow into it. Clean wetlands are needed to filter pollution, provide flood protection, recharge groundwater supplies and provide essential wildlife habitats. It’s all connected!
Keeping our water clean protects landlocked salmon (Salmo sebago salar), togue and black bass in Sebago Lake, which is important to sustaining my favorite hobby and also critical to maintaining Maine’s strong recreational economy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that in 2011, $1.4 billion was spent on wildlife recreation in Maine, including $372 million on fishing. On top of that, more than 1.1 million people participated in those recreational activities in Maine. If Sebago Lake loses its pristine status and becomes a polluted lake, Maine’s recreation economy would be gravely damaged.
In addition, rolling back the Clean Water Rule would reduce protections for more than 1,000 miles of streams that replenish drinking water sources here in the state. One-third of Mainers get drinking water from sources that rely on small streams protected by the Clean Water Rule. This includes Sebago Lake, which supplies drinking water to more than 200,000 Mainers. Revoking this protection would once again jeopardize drinking water sources for Mainers, making it easier for polluting industries to undermine the safeguards we recently put in place.
My final point is that fish need clean water and so do people – it’s that simple. Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King know that protecting clean water is not a partisan issue. I urge them to stand up and protect our economy, our heritage and our year-round recreational fun by opposing cutbacks to EPA funding and any rollback of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
It’s not just my favorite fishing waters that are at stake – it’s Maine’s drinking water, our economy and our future.