State legislators have work to do. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which administers Maine’s Natural Resources Protection Act standards protecting lakes, rivers, streams and brooks, is taking liberties with how it interprets and applies those standards.

Surface depressions carrying runoff are being given the same official status as a favorite fishing hole or a pristine mountain stream. They only need to show ‘scouring action’ by water (polluted or otherwise) and aquatic flora/hydric soils to trigger the standards … characteristics that many ordinary drainage channels can also exhibit.

Inspections to assess or delineate streams and wetlands don’t really ‘delineate’ much of anything. The inspector simply indicates whether there is one, then leaves the applicant to determine the details and get a permit. That might require hiring private consultants to understand and meet state rules.

Is that reasonable for protecting ‘real’ rivers and streams? Perhaps it is. But it makes no sense at all for simple drainage channels fed by road runoff.

The state’s lack of common sense in how it applies protection standards not only represents poor environmental policy, it underlines an ironic contradiction between a mandate to protect valuable surface waters from pollution, and it’s storm water standards that manage storm water as a pollution source.

Mainers value natural resources. They want them protected, but common sense should be used when doing so.

Legislators should make sure DEP doesn’t abuse stream standards. Public input isn’t the most important thing standing between environmental folly and fairness, it’s the only thing.

Tony St. Peter, Hallowell


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