Saturday, October 31, 2009

Senate approves $10 million fo Maine projects in Interior Appropriations conference report

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that the Senate approved the fiscal year (FY) 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations conference report by a vote of 72-28. This bill includes $10 million in federal funding that Senator Collins successfully secured for Maine projects.

The bill, which passed the House earlier today, will now be sent to the President for his signature.

“The Interior Appropriations bill includes important funding Maine’s lakes, parks, National Park and national wildlife refuges, water and sewer infrastructure, and land preservation,” said Senator Collins. “This funding will help protect and preserve the natural beauty of our state.”

$3.3 million of this funding was not included in the original House version of the bill, including funding for the Saint Joseph’s College milfoil project, rehabilitation of Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine Coastal Islands’ seabird nesting project, and the Limestone Water and Sewer District. However, Senator Collins, who is the only member of Maine’s delegation to serve on an Appropriations Committee was successful in ensuring that these dollars were included as part of both the Senate and final versions of the Interior spending bill.

Full funding for Maine projects in the bill is as follows:

* $3,000,000 for Trust for Public Land, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The Rachel Carson NWR has an opportunity to acquire, at below cost, a longstanding priority property in Kennebunkport called Timber Point. This 110 acre property includes 2.25 miles of undeveloped coastline, upland forests, wetlands and marshes that provide critical habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Permanent protection of the entire 110 acres, on over which the refuge already owns a conservation easement covering more than 45 acres, would ensure public access to Maine's coastline in a highly developed part of the state. Finally, refuge acquisition of the Timber Point property will protect nationally significant estuarine and marine resources, ensure habitat protection for migratory waterfowl and seabirds, and protect the water quality at a nearby public swimming beach. Federal funds will be matched by privately raised donations. This funding was included in the President’s FY 2010 budget request.

* $500,000 for Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Maine Lakes Invasive Species/Habitat Restoration Initiative. These funds would help support a public-private partnership between Saint Joseph’s College of Maine; two major Maine Lake Associations; and volunteer organizations at Maine lakes. This partnership would launch a comprehensive attack on the threat that milfoil, a dangerous invasive plant species, poses to the 6,000 lakes in the State of Maine. The focus will be on the milfoil infestation threat in Little Sebago Lake and six other lakes as a “test bed” for the development of milfoil action plans for other Maine lakes.

* $1,250,000 for City of Portland, Deering Oaks Park Rehabilitation. This would provide for the design and construction of the infrastructure improvements to address the environmental and public health risks caused by combined sewer overflows (CSO) and storm water runoff which pollute Deering Oaks Pond and create a blighting impact on the park and surrounding neighborhoods. Deering Oaks Park, where the Pond is located, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, due to CSO problems, the Pond is deteriorating and poses an environmental and public health risk. Water quality tests show high levels of coliform bacteria which requires the City to restrict or prohibit people from using the pond.

* $1,000,000 for Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Maine Seabird Nesting Islands. The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge is seeking to acquire five Nationally Significant Seabird Nesting Islands and a key parcel on a sixth island. These six nesting locations are scattered among a collection of more than 4,500 islands, of which 377 have been designated as Nationally Significant Seabird Nesting sites by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Adding this wildlife habitat to the refuge will help the Fish & Wildlife service meet its many obligations, including ensuring the health and welfare of seabird species and conducting research. By adding this wildlife habitat to the refuge, it will help the Fish & Wildlife Service better meet its many obligations, including ensuring the health and welfare of seabird species and conducting research.

* $550,000 for Limestone Water & Sewer District, Greater Limestone Regional Wastewater Treatment Facilities. The proposed project is the second phase of upgrading the Limestone Water & Sewer District’s wastewater treatment facility (formerly part of Loring Air Force Base.) The improvements are new pipes and pumping stations. It also will include installation of energy efficient and green (solar voltaic panels) equipment for the effluent pump station. These upgrades will assist the Loring Development Authority to attract new industry and possibly reactivate an existing power plant. This will also allow for the waste discharge to be removed from the Little Madawaska River which will improve trout and salmon fishing and water quality as well as minimize increases in sewer user fees and bring the facility into compliance with the MEDEP Toxic Reduction Evaluation Program. These industries would create temporary and permanent jobs as well as tax revenue for local communities and the state.

* $3,700,000 for Maine Department of Conservation, Katahdin Forest Expansion through the Forest Legacy Program This is the number two ranked Forest Legacy project in the President’s budget request. This will provide matching funds to state and local resources for the easement and fee protection of 19,647 acres of undeveloped lake front and forest land in a portion of the country valued for its forests and associated natural resources. The Katahdin Forest Expansion project area includes five parcels totaling 19,647 acres in the heart of Maine’s Northwoods and will connect to existing recreation and conservation lands north and south of Millinocket. It complements and enhances previous federal investment in land protection around Baxter State Park. In addition, the viewshed from the summit of Mount Katahdin and the federally designated Appalachian Trail will be protected. The tracts include portions of popular snowmobile and ATV trails, and the Seboeis area also hosts ATV trails.

Report Language for Mercury Monitoring

Senator Collins also worked to a provision in the bill encouraging EPA to continue its work to coordinate a monitoring network for mercury.

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