Maine has more than 6,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 5,000 miles of coastline. Clean, healthy waterways are vital to our day-to-day lives. They help ensure safe drinking water, suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife, and recreational opportunities that make Maine a special place to live, work, play, and visit. The full value of clean water to Maine is incalculable, but here are some economic indicators:
- Maine’s 6,000 lakes generate $3.5 billion for Maine’s economy annually and sustain 52,000 jobs.
- Maine has more coldwater brook trout habitat than the rest of the eastern U.S. combined. These prized waters draw anglers to Maine from around the country.
- Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for one-in-seven Mainers, 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.
- Maine’s fishing industry, which depends on clean water, brings more than $700 million to Maine’s economy.
Despite the enormous value of clean water in Maine and across the nation, the Trump Administration has launched an attack to weaken water protections. The Clean Water Act of 1972 forced polluting industries and towns to treat waste and sewage before discharging it. As a result the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Penobscot, and other Maine rivers are far cleaner today than they were 40 years ago. The primary author of this law, Maine’s U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, acted in response to the horrible pollution he saw while he was growing up along the Androscoggin River in Rumford.
Now, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are attempting to gut the nation’s Clean Water Rule, enacted in 2015 to strengthen protections under the federal Clean Water Act. The Trump Administration is working to repeal the rule through administrative processes, while Republicans in Congress are attacking the rule by placing riders on the federal budget.
Repeal of the Clean Water Rule
Why the Clean Water Rule is important to Maine
The Clean Water Rule strengthens the Clean Water Act by protecting small streams and wetlands from unchecked pollution. This benefits Mainers because it:
- Maintains our drinking water: More than 400,000 people in Maine drink water provided by utilities that rely on surface water supplies. Protecting small streams and wetlands is critical to keeping these water supplies.
- Supports our economy: Clean water is critical for our outdoor recreation, hunting, and fishing industries. Maine’s outdoor recreation economy provides the state with $8.2 billion each year in income. The most recent data available shows that in 2011 people spent nearly $600 million to fish and hunt in Maine.
- Protects native species: Small streams provide critical habitat for our prized native brook trout. Maine’s small wetlands filter impurities that would otherwise pollute the water brook trout need to survive. They also provide important habitat for waterfowl.
- Prevents flooding: We rely on wetlands to help keep Maine communities safe from flooding. During storms, wetlands fill, taking up water that could otherwise flood waterbodies downstream.
Banner photo: Penobscot River by Pam Wells