Thursday May 23rd, state director Carissa Maurin gave the following testimony on behalf of Enviornment Maine in support of the Department of Environmental Protection's bill LD 1743 'An Act To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State' which would update classifications for certain waters based on water quality data. This is the first time in almost 10 years, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing to upgrade water quality protections for hundreds of miles of Maine’s rivers and streams. The most remarkable proposals concern Maine’s largest river, the Penobscot. They reflect great gains in water quality demonstrated by years of detailed monitoring. Her testimony is as following:

“Good afternoon Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and distinguished members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony. My name is Carissa Maurin and I am the State Director at Environment Maine. I am here speaking to you today in support of LD 1743 ‘An Act To Reclassify Certain Waters of the State’.

Our rivers are such a large part of Maine’s heritage. Updating the classifications for more than 400 miles of rivers and streams listed in LD 1743 will increase protections and decrease activities such as waste discharge and impoundment.  Fifty years ago our waterways were so polluted that most of them had a film layer on top and a noxious odor. We’ve come a long way since then but there is still more to do.

This bill would upgrade Fish Stream from Class B to Class A and Fish Stream is part of the ecologically important Crystal Bog complex, a unique natural feature in Maine that supports many rare species of plants and animals. All of the tributaries to Webb Lake, many of which are in the Tumbledown Public Reserved Land would be upgraded from Class B to Class A and they provide excellent brook trout habitat.

The Penobscot River upgrades are particularly important. As a result of two dam removals and improved fish passage at other dams sea-run fish populations, such as shad and alewife, in the river are recovering dramatically. The fish need clean water to continue their recovery and to be able to recolonize the upper reaches of the River.

The West Branch and upper main stem are the last segments of the river still at Class C, Maine’s lowest classification, in spite of the fact that they have met Class B qualifications for many years. Class B strikes the right balance, allowing new industrial development that respects Maine’s clean water and the countless people who work on, recreate on, and draw sustenance from the Penobscot. Maine does not need new industry that pollutes the old-fashioned way. The upgrades to Class B in the West Branch and upper main stem would allow substantial industrial development in the Millinocket area.

Clean water benefits all Mainers and the aquatic species we depend on. We enjoy our cleaner waterways today because of the Clean Water Act, written by Maine’s own U.S. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie in 1972. Since then we have made great gains in water quality demonstrated by years of detailed monitoring but we can’t stop there. Let’s make Sen. Muskie proud today and pass LD 1743.”