NRCM news release
April 4, 2022 (Augusta, ME) – More than 800 miles of rivers and streams in Maine will receive stronger protections from pollution under new standards signed into law on Thursday, March 31st. The water quality upgrades contained in LD 1964 are the result of a review conducted every three years by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality laws. The bill received unanimous, bipartisan support in both the Maine House and Senate.
“Strong federal and state laws are the biggest reasons why Mainers enjoy such clean water,” said Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “These periodic upgrades of water quality protection and classifications conducted by DEP are among the most important tools to improve and protect Maine’s clean water.”
Under Maine’s water classification program, DEP performs a triennial review of the waters of the state and recommends improved protections for appropriate water bodies. Those recommendations are then forwarded to the Board of Environmental Protection and the Legislature for approval. A higher water quality classification means additional protections from pollution. DEP typically recommends upgrades when water bodies meet the standards of the next highest level of classification, based on lowered levels of pollutants or on new science that shows the water body meeting a higher level than its existing classification.
“These standards are based on Senator Edmund Muskie’s ideas and vision for cleaner water that led to the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Enactment of these new protections during the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act is a particularly fitting tribute to Senator Muskie’s legacy and his gift of cleaner water for Maine and the nation,” continued Bennett.
The water quality upgrades include increased protections for many important rivers and streams, including:
- South Branch of Sandy River and its tributaries in Franklin County, which are important spawning streams for Atlantic salmon and brook trout: Class A to AA
- West Branch of Penobscot River between Chesuncook and Ripogenus Lakes to its confluence with Ambajejus Lake in Penobscot County, which is one of Maine’s most iconic stretches of water, supporting high recreational use, and including an important native brook trout and landlocked salmon habitat: Class A to AA
- East and West Branch Penobscot River tributaries within the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument in Penobscot County, which are smaller waters that serve as high-quality sources to the East Branch of the Penobscot and include habitat for salmon, brook trout, and other species: Class A to AA
- Orbeton Stream and its tributaries in Franklin County, also important spawning streams for Atlantic salmon and brook trout: Class A to AA
- Little Narraguagus River in Hancock County, which is an important habitat for Atlantic salmon: Class A to AA
Learn more about the clean water classification upgrades: www.nrcm.org/blog/classification-upgrades-protect-maines-clean-water/