Bill finances conservation and infrastructure
More than $10 million in federal funding was given to Maine last month to finance several statewide projects.
The Fiscal Year 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act was signed into law on October 30 by President Barack Obama, allocating $33.2 billion throughout the United States.
Congress approved the bill with a vote of 247 to 178 in the House and a vote of 72 to 28 in the Senate. Maine's $10 million will be used at over eight different project sites, many of which are focusing on national park conservation and wastewater treatment improvements.
"From expanding the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to include more than two miles of pristine coastline, to tackling invasive species in Maine's beautiful lakes, this funding will be vital to enhancing Maine's most valuable natural treasures," U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said in a press release. "This is extremely welcome news."
The Maine Department of Conservation will receive $3,700,000 to expand Baxter State Park. Most of the woods in Maine are privately owned and consequently, the land is developed for non-forest use.
Under the Katahdin Forest Expansion initiative, the state will buy 19,647 acres of undeveloped land to protect forest landscapes and to ensure public recreational access. This acquisition will protect the viewshed from the summit of Mount Katahdin, as well as portions of the Appalachian Trail and several snowmobile and ATV paths.
The initiative builds upon an existing 2002 project led by the Nature Conservancy in Maine. "We're always pleased when a Maine project is successful in Congress," Bruce Kidman, director of external affairs, said. "While we did negotiate and complete the Katahdin Forest Project back in 2002, the Katahdin Expansion Project is being led by the State of Maine...We applaud the state's work."
Along the coast, $1,000,000 will be granted to the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of nesting seabirds rely on the refuge's 49 islands and three coastal parks as their home.
Human development along the coast and the hunting of the birds has endangered many avian species, including the common and Arctic tern, the Atlantic puffin, songbirds, shorebirds and the beloved bald eagle.
The federal funding will give the refuge enough money to purchase six more islands, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have classified as "nationally significant." A portion of the money will also go toward the research of these endangered populations.
On another project, $500,000 will be used to eradicate invasive species in Maine lakes and ponds. The introduction of non-indigenous aquatic plants, such as water milfoil from Europe and Asia, has harmful consequences for the local ecosystem.
According to the Maine Bureau of Land and Water Quality, invasive species have the potential to disrupt habitats, to destroy native plant and animal communities, to lower property values and to reduce water recreational activities.
"With over 6,000 lakes and ponds, the task of preventing the spread of invasive aquatic species in Maine waters is one of the most difficult environmental challenges facing us today," Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME) said in a press release. "I am pleased the bill included an initiative to address this issue in Maine."
Attempts to eliminate invasive species are being coordinated by a statewide consortium led by the Lakes Environmental Association. Though the grant helps, members of the group say that the project still faces many challenges.
"The federal funding doesn't meet the full need of state efforts on invasive aquatic plants," John McPhedran, biologist and coordinator of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's invasive species program, said. "But, it is a big help to local lake associations working hard to control existing infestations. And if capacity of local groups is increased, the overall state program is helped by this funding." These conservation efforts not only aim to preserve the natural environment, but they also seek to improve the local economy.
"With over 15 million acres of forestland, Maine remains one of this nation's most heavily forested states," the Appalachian Mountain Club said in a public statement. "The white pine, spruce, fir and northern hardwoods that characterize the Maine woods are a critical component in two of Maine's largest industries-forestry and tourism. They provide incredible recreational opportunities, including hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, fishing, camping, boating and numerous other activities. This landscape also sustains valuable fish and wildlife habitats for many different animal species." In an attempt to improve wastewater treatment facilities throughout the state, $500,000 will be given to both the Limestone Water and Sewer District and the Town of Machias. New pipes and pumping stations will be installed in both locations. Notably, energy efficient equipment will be used, such as solar voltaic panels for the new effluent pump station in Limestone. Improvements in the water quality and the local industry are expected to result from these new systems in Limestone and Machias. U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) praised the organizations that have taken on these statewide projects. "The Interior Appropriations Bill includes important funding for Maine's lakes, parks, national park and national wildlife refuges, water and sewer infrastructure and land preservation," she said in a press release.
"This funding will help protect and preserve the natural beauty of our state."
Other projects that will be funded under the $10 million federal investment include $3,000,000 to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Kennebunkport and $1,250,000 to the City of Portland for infrastructure that would address sewer overflow and storm water runoff.