Lake restoraton bill ill-conceived
To the editor:
In a letter to the editor published in the January 26, 2017, edition of The Town Line, I raised several issues regarding Rep. Theriault’s L.D. 55, “An Act To Provide Funding for the Restoration of China Lake.” On February 16, the public hearing on the bill was held before the legislative Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. I attended the public hearing, in part because Rep. Theriault did not reply to my requests for information and because the bill itself contained no information other than its purpose to “charge a fee to customers of the Kennebec Water District (for a limited number of years) to be used to restore the water quality of China Lake.”
This poorly written and ill-conceived bill is silent on such details as what Rep Theriault means by “restoration,” how this “restoration” would be conducted, whether or not “restoration is even feasible,” how much “restoration” would cost and how long it would take, why “restoration” is needed, whether or not it would result in “restoration” of China Lake, where the money would go and who would oversee and be held accountable for this “restoration,” why the customers of the KWD would be assessed this tax when they are not the ones responsible for polluting or “restoring” the lake, why there is no DEP involvement when it is the statutory responsibility of that agency to preserve, protect and enhance the waters of the state, why no state funding was requested, and what systems are in place to insure that the monies collected are properly spent.
The committee and the public heard very few answers from Rep. Theriault. Perhaps this lack of information prior to and during the hearing was an attempt to stifle public comment. Rep. Theriault did state that his intent was to collect $43,000 per year from KWD customers over a 15-year period for a total tax on KWD customers of some $645,000. He stated that the money would go into a fund managed by the town of China and would be used to pay for various projects. That’s it. He provided no evidence of who would be held accountable or that this tax would result in any “restoration” of China Lake.
Rep. Theriault’s bill is an excellent example of poor government. It provides for no accountability of what would amount to a slush fund for the town of China to use as it sees fit. It taxes individuals who are not responsible for either creating nor correcting the problem. It ignores the responsibilities of private citizens, the state and the town of China to comply with and properly administer laws intended to protect water quality. It hands over hundreds of thousands of dollars to the town of China and neither asks for nor provides any evidence that the water quality of China Lake will be restored.
As a resident of China for more than 30 years, and as a former employee of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, I know that China Lake is China’s most important natural, cultural and economic resource. One way to continue the process of improving the water quality of China Lake could be for the town of China to hire a China Lakekeeper, much like Portland’s Casco Baykeeper and New York’s Hudson Riverkeeper. This individual could be the point person for the town for all lake related matters and a strong advocate for the lake by working to insure that citizens and the town live up to their legal responsibilities for environmental compliance. Poorly crafted legislation that makes others pay for our mistakes is not the solution. Hard work and holding people and our government accountable for their actions would be a good start.
John M. Glowa, Sr.