Question 6: Should Maine borrow $10 million for clean water, upgraded culverts?

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BANGOR — Floodwaters swept away Maine roads and damaged homes across the state during severe storms this year. Future damage could be prevented with investment in culverts and stream crossings, say backers of a bond that would fund infrastructure improvements across the state.

Question 6 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask “Do you favor a $10 million bond issue to ensure clean water and safe communities across Maine; to protect drinking water sources; to restore wetlands; to create jobs and vital public infrastructure; and to strengthen the state’s long-term economic base and competitive advantage?”

That $10 million would be split into three “pots,” according to Monica Castellanos, spokeswoman for the “Yes on 6” campaign.

A little more than half, $5.4 million, would go into a pot to be used to upgrade stream crossings and culverts, an investment that would help “reconnect habitat for fish and other wildlife,” Castellanos said.

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Thomas Abello, senior policy adviser for The Nature Conservancy of Maine, said that, if passed, Question 6 would be the first time the state has invested in culvert improvements in a significant way. The effort could reduce the chances of flooding, he said, citing recent flooding and washouts in central and southern Maine, including communities like Dexter and Freeport.

A small chunk, $400,000 would go into a pot to lay the groundwork for a program that would work around Maine wetlands, reducing the chances of flooding in those areas, as well as improving water quality and wildlife habitats, supporters say.

The remaining $4.2 million would be put into a pot for Maine’s Revolving Loan Fund, which would trigger an additional $21 million in federal funding to upgrade drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities across the state.

The “Yes on 6” campaign launched in late September with a series of television and online advertisements trumpeting the expected benefits of the $10 million investment.

Question 6 also is expected to “create or maintain” 1,000 jobs in the state. It’s likely most jobs would be in construction, with contractors picking up the work for their employees or hiring on new people to complete the projects.

“Clean water is the one thing people can always agree on,” said Castellanos.

Proponents of the water bond boast a wide coalition of support from about 25 organizations.

Question 6 has been backed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Municipal Association, Mayors Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, Maine Audubon, Maine Lakes Society, Natural Resources Council of Maine and others.

There isn’t any organized opposition to Question 6, but “No” votes likely will come from anyone who is against the state borrowing and assuming debt to fund infrastructure projects.

Question 6 is tied with Question 4, which would fund a cancer research center, for most expensive bond question on this year’s ballot. The other five borrowing issues on the ballot, seeking money to support agriculture, small business loans and a biological laboratory expansion, are for smaller amounts ranging from $4 million to $8 million.

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