by Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist and Watersheds Project Director
Dear Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
I am the Staff Scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with over 12,000 members and supporters. I am testifying in opposition to LD 336, An Act Relating to Clean Water Certification by the Department of Environmental Protection. I reside in Hallowell.
NRCM does not have a position on the issue of water levels in Sebago Lake. However, we are aware the issue is very complicated and has been the source of friction for quite some time. Some advocate higher levels and some lower. It is also important that enough water leaves Sebago Lake via the Eel Weir Dam to keep the Presumpscot River healthy. DEP had to try to balance all of these interests and more when it issued a 401 certificate for the Eel Weir dam. I have attached an interesting article on this issue to my testimony.
Again, NRCM does not have a position on whether DEP succeeded or failed in its efforts to balance these issues. For those who feel it did not, there is an appeals process available through the Board of Environmental Protection and state court system.
There are more than 100 hydropower dams in Maine for which DEP must issue 401 certificates. If the Legislature were to pass LD 336, it would need to issue 401certificates for all of these dams itself. It often takes many years for DEP to issue 401 certificates, and they typically require extensive water quality, fisheries, and recreational resource studies. NRCM believes that if the Legislature were take over this task as described in LD 336 for all of the hydropower dams in Maine, the issuance of 401 certificates would become unmanageable.
For these reasons, we urge the Committee to vote ought not to pass on LD 336. Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I would be happy to take any questions.