By George Smith
Bangor Daily News column
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has proposed exciting upgrades for more than 400 miles of rivers and streams.
Although this is supposed to be something that’s done every three years, this is the first time in almost 10 years that the DEP has proposed to upgrade water quality protections for any of our rivers and streams.
A report from the Natural Resources Council of Maine informed me that one of most remarkable proposals is for the state’s largest river, the Penobscot. One of my favorite places to fish is the West Branch of the Penobscot. I’ve caught lots of landlocked salmon there.
The DEP proposal includes 200 miles of tributaries to Webb Lake near Tumbledown Mountain; 44 miles of Wesserunsett Stream near Athens; 10 miles of the west branch of the Mattawamkeag near Island Falls; and 25 miles of Fish Stream near Patten. All of these water bodies are outstanding resources for Maine people and deserve increased protection.
DEP’s proposals for upgrading the Penobscot main stem from Medway to Mattawamkeag, the West Branch of the Penobscot from the Millinocket area to Medway, and the lower part of Millinocket Stream to Class B are especially noteworthy and long overdue. These water bodies meet Class B standards and have for many years.
DEP’s modeling shows that substantial new industry could locate in Millinocket, discharge reasonable amounts of appropriately treated waste, and still meet Class B standards. Class B strikes a balance that would allow industry that is respectful of the river while still protecting it for the large numbers of people living downstream and the newly expanding populations of sea-run fish travelling upstream. The Penobscot River is Maine’s largest, and it’s a gem we all need to share and take responsibility for.
And here’s more really good news. These upgrades reflect gains in water quality on these rivers and streams, demonstrated by years of detailed monitoring.
You can help achieve this goal by contacting the Board of Environmental Protection and urging them to support the DEP’s excellent proposal.
All comments are due by 5 PM on Tuesday, October 9. Please don’t delay. Do it today.
The Legislature will make the final decision on these proposed upgrades if the BEP passes them on.