By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill designed to protect Maine lakes by banning the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus or nitrogen near shorelines is headed to Gov. Paul LePage after near-unanimous support in the House and Senate.
LePage vetoed a bill with similar setbacks last year when it was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. The Legislature did not override the veto. This year’s sponsor is an independent, Rep. Ben Chipman of Portland.
Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, said Thursday that LePage vetoed the bill last year at his request.
“It was contrary to what came out of the committee and had not had the proper vetting,” he said. “My promise was that I was going to bring the bill back again and fix it appropriately.”
Saviello said he and McCabe agreed to let Chipman introduce the bill.
The bill, LD 568, would disallow the use of harmful fertilizers within 25 feet of the high-water mark of a great pond unless a targeted fertilizer spreader is used, in which case the buffer zone would be 10 feet. Last year’s bill went through several versions and included a range of other provisions before being enacted and ultimately vetoed.
Chipman’s bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday and with only one vote against it Tuesday in the House. The lone vote against it was Rep. Ricky Long, R-Sherman.
LePage argued in his veto letter last April that setback restrictions similar to those outlined in Chipman’s bill would provide an undue enforcement responsibility on officers from the Department of Environmental Protection, which he suggested would require patrols on every shoreline in Maine. LePage also said fertilizers can spur shoreline plant growth that helps prevent erosion.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine disputed those claims and said that in the face of the deteriorating condition of waterways, both New Hampshire and Vermont have enacted similar laws in recent years.
LePage has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or let it go into law without his signature.