The Lewiston Auburn Watershed Protection Commission was created as a cooperative effort of Lewiston and Auburn to meet the requirements of the Surface Water Treatment Rule. The SWTR mandated an effective watershed control program to protect the public water supply from all human activities that may have an adverse effect. 

To control activities within the watershed, we rely either on land ownership or zoning regulations to ensure proper protections. While LAWPC has tried to control ownership of the immediate shoreline of Lake Auburn, the city of Auburn has protected the Lake Auburn Watershed through several zoning restrictions. That includes the Lake Auburn Overlay District, which has individual zoning requirements for septic systems, soil disturbance, and allowable phosphorus run-off. If you can’t control the land through direct ownership, zoning restrictions are the next most effective solution.

In 1924, trustees of the Auburn Water District began a formal policy “to purchase land boarding on Lake Auburn as such land comes to market.” By 1941, records said “that since the policy of acquiring land on the shore of Lake Auburn began, nearly 200 cottages have been removed. Less than 40 remain.” By 1991, the Auburn Water District had acquired nearly 750 acres within the Lake Auburn watershed. Since LAWPC was created in 1993, about 600 more acres have been protected in Auburn.

As LAWPC obtains land, it becomes tax-exempt. In turn, LAWPC authorizes passive recreation on the land — fishing, hiking, etc. We simply restrict access after sundown and before sunrise.

Critics often ask, “When is enough enough?” when it comes to taking land off the tax rolls. LAWPC commissioners are sensitive to the matter, and the land acquisition effort has slowed significantly. For instance, 2010 saw only one purchase, and it involved one of the remaining cottage parcels on the west shore of Lake Auburn.

What’s more, the creation of LAWPC has saved ratepayers and taxpayers millions of dollars. Today LAWPC owns slightly more than 80 percent of the shoreline of Lake Auburn — our irreplaceable asset as the sole source of public drinking water for the two cities.

What about the amount and current assessed value of LAWPC’s tax-exempt property? According to Auburn records, LAWPC owns about 1,340 acres in the city, worth some $1.7 million. In total, the city has nearly $300 million of tax-exempt properties and LAWPC lands aren’t even in the Top 10. A listing of the top tax-exempt valuations follows:

LAWPC lands account for less than one-half of one percent of the nearly $300 million tax-exempt valuation of the city of Auburn.

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