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Clean Water Act Changes Could Impact Maine Economy

If proposed changes to the Clean Water Act are adopted, many streams and wetlands would no longer be protected. (Dougtone/Flickr)
If proposed changes to the Clean Water Act are adopted, many streams and wetlands would no longer be protected. (Dougtone/Flickr)
April 12, 2019

BELGRADE LAKES, MAINE – The Trump Administration is trying to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, a change that would exclude about half the nation's wetlands and many streams. This would also impact Maine's economy and drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency says changing the "Waters of the United States" rule would enable more state and tribal authority over these resources. But Susan Gallo, executive director of the Maine Lakes Society, says ending protections for smaller streams and wetlands would heavily affect the tourism economy in Maine.

"Clean lakes, clean water supports about 52,000 jobs and it brings in more than $3.5 billion into our state economy,” says Gallo. “So we really need clean water to make the Maine tourism engine run."

Gallo says wetlands play a crucial role in filtering drinking water. She also warns that waterfront homes would lose value if clean water standards are lowered, which in turn lowers property tax revenue.

The public can comment on the proposed changes until Monday, April 15th, online at 'regulations.gov.'

The proposal would exclude streams or wetlands that are not "meaningfully connected" to larger water sources, like rivers and lakes. It would also strip protections from "ephemeral streams," or those that only flow after a rainfall.

Jan Goldman-Carter, senior director of Wetlands and Water Resources with the National Wildlife Federation, says the consequences are major.

"If they were able to shrink the Clean Water Act protections as drastically as they're proposing to do it, it really would not be possible to meet the objectives of the Clean Water Act," says Goldman-Carter.

For Maine resident Jason Perkins, the proposed changes would also affect the business where he is brewmaster, Allagash Brewing.

"As a brewery, 90% or more of the raw materials used in making beer is water,” says Perkins. “So the quality of that water is incredibly important to us – as important, if not the most important, raw material we use."

According to the Maine Brewers' Guild, the state is home to more than 130 craft breweries, and contributes more than $260 million to the Maine economy.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME