By Jeff McCabe and Kenneth Fredette, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
Here’s a proposal with something for just about everyone. It’s about clean water, natural resources, public safety and jobs, among other things we can get behind.
LD 1455 is a $50 million bond proposal that would provide much-needed investment in Maine’s clean water infrastructure. It’s a measure that would have an immediate, measurable impact on our state in more ways than one.
That is why it has won broad, bipartisan support from lawmakers and the backing of an uncommonly diverse coalition of stakeholders — from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated General Contractors of Maine, to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, The Nature Conservancy and nearly all our state’s other environmental and conservation organizations.
These are folks who care about our outdoor heritage, public health and economy, whether it’s tied to tourism, recreation, the building trades or other sectors.
The proposal provides an abundant and high-quality drinking water supply statewide, helps communities prepare for severe storms and flooding, conserves habitat for recreational fisheries and wildlife species, and spurs economic development.
The Clean Water and Safe Communities Act would strengthen built and natural infrastructure. The first is about improvements to irrigation systems, storm water management projects and culverts, which, when improperly installed, can impede the passage of native fish. The second conserves and restores aquifers and areas like forest headlands, floodplains and wetlands that serve as natural buffers.
The $5.5 million bricks-and-mortar portion of the package would leverage $25 million federal funds to upgrade drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. If that’s not a good deal, we don’t know what is.
This is a jobs bond. According to numbers provided by the Associated General Contractors of Maine, the nonresidential construction created by the full funding of this bond bill would add $219 million to Maine’s gross domestic product, $70.8 million to personal earnings, and create or sustain 1,833 jobs. About one-third of these jobs (624) would be on-site construction jobs, one-sixth of the jobs (296) would be indirect jobs from supplying construction materials and services, and about half of the jobs (920) would be induced jobs created when the construction and supplier workers and owners spend their additional incomes.
This is real statewide job creation and increased personal earning that does not exist in Maine’s economy today.
We can’t take for granted our water and all that relies on it. This is a bill that supports waterways that are critical to public health, our economy and our way of life. These are things we take to heart, as do Mainers and the visitors who come to enjoy our natural treasures.
Here’s just one example. Maine is home to nearly all of the nation’s intact native brook habitat, thanks to our clean, cold waters. These fishing spots draw not only Mainers but visitors from far and wide. Brook trout are particularly put at risk by culverts that block passage. Ninety percent of culverts in Maine are barriers to fish and other wildlife, with 40 percent being severely so.
This bond will strengthen Maine’s long-term economic base and competitive advantages. Stewardship of our water resources equals stewardship of our Maine brand — one that is rightfully famous around the world and helps support the 65,000 jobs in our recreation economy.
This bond will also lead to well-paying jobs in the near-term. Think of all the workers in construction and related fields that will be busy at job sites because of these projects. We want to see them put on tool belts and get to work. And in the long-term, we’ll save money by addressing infrastructure needs before any issues become more serious, time consuming and expensive to repair or replace.
Some of the projects that would be funded through the bond address stormwater and flood management. A report out of the Muskie School of Public Service concludes that investments in stream buffers, culvert improvements, wetland restoration and sustainable forestry can be much less expensive that the construction of new filtration systems.
A large percentage of the estimated 35,000 culverts aren’t able to accommodate expected increases in precipitation, creating both potential safety and financial threats. We serve our communities and taxpayers well by dealing with this issue before it leads to washouts and flooding.
We wholeheartedly believe that this bond proposal is a good deal for Maine. We urge our fellow lawmakers to join us in support of this effort to promote our state’s well-being by protecting our critical water resources.
Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the sponsor of LD 1455 and the assistant House majority leader. Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, is the House minority leader.