Testimony at the Maine Legislature
by Nick Bennett, NRCM staff scientist
Good afternoon Senator Cowger, Representative Koffman, and members of the Committee. The Natural Resources Council of Maine, which is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with more than 8000 members and supporters, urges the Committee to vote ought to pass on LD 1558. We generally, support this bill, with a couple of concerns which we will discuss later, because it contains the changes in statute necessary to implement the stormwater rules addressed in LD 625 properly. This is very important, because stormwater is a major threat to Maine’s streams and lakes.
Stormwater is the water that runs off hard, impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and roads, when it rains. It can contain toxic materials such as heavy metals and petroleum products as well as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Toxic materials can kill aquatic creatures and nutrients can cause algae blooms. Stormwater can also destroy stream channels and erode banks due to the fact that rain cannot leach into the ground through impervious surfaces, and thus, the quantity of water going into streams during rain events is increased.
Why do we care about the small streams and lakes that LD 1558 will help protect? Because they are huge resources for the state of Maine. Small streams provide and support some of the best fisheries in the state and serve as critical habitat for brook trout, one of the most sought after cold water species. Inland fisheries are a huge economic resource for the state. A recent university of Maine study showed that the “total economic output from fishing inland waters in Maine during 1996 is estimated at $292.7 million”. In addition this study showed that “inland anglers supported 5,230 full and part-time jobs in Maine.”>/p>
Salmon are also adapted to spawn in streams, and high quality stream habitat is necessary for the proper development of juvenile salmon, which spend the first several years of their life in streams before descending to the sea.
Small streams are also an important source of organic matter for the larger water bodies they flow into, and are thus essential components of riverine ecological systems. Recent studies have also shown that small streams are critical in removing nitrogen from runoff, thus protecting downstream water quality.
Lakes are also huge resources, and algae blooms caused by phosphorus in stormwater runoff are among the biggest threats to Maine lakes. University of Maine researchers have shown that water quality in lakes can account for 15% of property value. Declining water quality lowers property values, and the authors conclude that, in Maine, “It is clear from our studies that the economic losses due to declines in lake water quality which have already occurred are real and very large.” The authors further state that: “Of 451 Maine lakes for which we have substantial water quality data, 191 are below regional expectations for lakes in undisturbed watersheds. The estimated property value loss for these 191 lakes is about $256-512 million.”
For these reasons, we again urge the committee to pass LD 1558 to increase the protection for Maine’s valuable small streams and lakes from stormwater.
However, we do have a concern we wish to raise about Section 13 (D) (3) of this bill. The intent of this language is not clear to us. Does it exempt all municipal stormwater discharges from stormwater standards? How does DEP then plan to address the impacts of these discharges? Also, what if the stormwater pollutant in question is caused by municipal operations, such as road salting or repair of heavy equipment in a municipal lot?
These questions need to be clarified by the Department.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important legislation, and I will be available at work session to answer any questions about this testimony.
 Mario F. Teisl and Kevin J. Boyle. 1998. The Economic Impacts of Hunting, Inland Fishing, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in Maine. Staff Paper Series in Resource Economics. Resource Economics and Policy Staff Paper No. 479. University of Maine.
 Bruce Peterson et. al. 2001. Control of Nitrogen Export from Watershed by headwater Streams. Science. 292. April.
 DEP website: http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/doclake/research.htm