Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, my name is Nick Bennett, and I am the Staff Scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with more than 20,000 members and supporters. I am testifying in opposition to LD 983.
Maine has at least hundreds and perhaps thousands of dams (see attachment from Maine Office of GIS). The majority of these generate no power and are not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The definition of “low-head dam” in this bill is not clear, but we believe that it likely encompasses the majority of dams not under FERC jurisdiction. This means that a very large number of dams would be subject to the exemption from a permit for repair or reconfiguration that LD 983 proposes.
There are many things that can go wrong when repairing or reconfiguring a dam. Contractors who lack the proper qualifications are more likely to run heavy equipment in streams and cause erosion problems. This can kill fish and alter habitat permanently.
Cofferdams are often necessary to create dry workspaces for dam repair and reconfiguration. If contractors build cofferdams poorly, they can fail and cause serious injury or death to workers.
NRCM believes that obtaining a Natural Resources Protection Act permit or approval from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) prior to significant dam repair or reconfiguration, as currently required in statute, is a small price to pay for the safety it affords to Maine’s citizens and environment. This requirement allows the Department or the NRCS to ensure that only experienced contractors who know how to repair dams properly and safely will do the work.
We urge you to vote ought-not-pass on LD 983.