LD 1643/ Public Law chapter 452
Work Group - Review of Ground Water Regulations 2005-2006
April 14, 2006

Meeting Notes

Review of Charge:

Marvinney reviewed the overall charge to this group

  • "to identify any changes in state law needed to ensure a consistent, integrated and scientifically sound state policy that ensures that the withdrawal of groundwater does not have an undue adverse effect on waters of the State";
  • to "review existing geological, hydrogeological and other related scientific information regarding Maine's groundwater resources in order to assess the efficacy of existing state law for ensuring that withdrawal of groundwater does not have an undue adverse effect on waters of the State", and;
  • to "assess the projected costs to the State" and "assess the projected costs to applicants for withdrawal of groundwater for complying with any changes in state law."

This group needs to consider the broad policy first and not get lost in discussion of details.

Examples of the types of problems we might address are:

  • Freeport - where the ground water source for the water district underlies several towns, but neighboring towns have no standing in the process to approve wells.
  • Fryeburg - where the town feels that current state regulations inadequately protect their interests with regard to ground water withdrawals.

This review led to a general discussion of what should be addressed. Some points in that discussion:

Current regulatory review: Several participants thought we generally did well with the things we are required to review, but that perhaps there are gaps in what we review.

Allocation: This is an issue we haven't addressed, but may need to in the future.

Home rule: This will always be involved in local resource issues and whatever we do must recognize that.

Stewardship: Maintain and retain dynamics of high level of ownership and stewardship, although water districts, for example, have little authority to require conservation measures.

Social concerns: While many issues with regard to ground water withdrawals are technical, there are also social/emotional concerns and these need some separation. We might deal more with the technical issues and the legislative process might deal more with the social issues.

Freeport example:

Rick Knowlton presented an overview of the process the water district had to navigate to install an additional well in Freeport.

Freeport's 2 wells. Well #1 installed in 1988-1989 under local ordinance, in the corner of Freeport near Pownal/Desert Road area. Well #2 installed in 2003 at same location. The 2,500-day travel time for the wells is all within Freeport. The watershed extends to Pownal. Confined aquifer of 40-80 feet with clay on top.

Well #1 cost: approximately $585,000, including well and infrastructure.

Well #2 cost: Cost the same, with most funds being spent on local approval process, models, testing.

Review process for the second well:

At State level: new well approval criteria. No NRPA, site law, etc.

At Local level: site plan review. Freeport ordinance language: activities cannot lower water table beyond project area of 10 feet, no ground subsidence greater than 1 inch, no salt water intrusion.

Rate: PUC approval required. If spending too much, will go before PUC.

Public concerns with the new well:

The modeling was questioned; there were concerns about the accuracy of predictions, even though the modeled impacts were not expected for decades. They wanted to determine the possible impacts of potential future water demands.

Some were concerned about restrictive resource protection district. Freeport has wellhead protection - 500 feet radius around wells.

Yarmouth and Pownal wanted a part in the process. Pownal claims Freeport is taking their water. Yarmouth residents were concerned that the salt-water interface would not move inland. This was the most sensitive aspect of project.

Aqua Maine did additional work and meetings over three years. They basically asked Freeport for an allocation, seventy-five percent of available resource. There was no recognition in process that would prevent future conflicting uses, especially if in another town.

A regional view/analysis not required, although they do monitoring. Any enforcement actions would be by the town, but since they pay for water it might not be that rigorous.

This presentation was followed by a broad discussion of this example, plus the concept of a watershed approach to water resources management.

Modeling: Freeport's allocation is based on a model, but the water district cannot enforce or defend the allocation. Models have many assumptions that need careful consideration and that can drastically affect the outcome of the model. Other uses change the conditions that go into the model, so the model becomes invalid.

These are real examples of new withdrawals. State agency permitting generally considers these other uses. In Dallas Plantation, the two major water users agreed among themselves on conditions for new water withdrawals.

In this example, the users that foot the bill got to decide how to proceed, and this may be different from other permitting situations.

Watershed approach.

We discussed the 3-column chart developed by the Maine Geological Survey (below) that provided several options as to how a watershed approach to water resources management might be implemented. There is general acceptance in the group (although perhaps not consensus) that an approach based on watersheds is worth pursuing. Some comments:

The watershed level is a good level to consider sustainability.

How does policy best integrate pieces? GW/SW interfaces? What are important factors that need to be in policy?

Situations are local, defined by watershed, local people. Locals can work it out or go to court. Protection might mean buying more of the upstream resource. These are business decisions. Stewardship, ownership.

Need to discuss appropriate kinds of standards that we need to address. Freeport had some examples; but, not necessarily practical. These conditions and standards may need to be considered in a case-by-case process.

Triggering the process: There might be additional triggers, such as surface water not meeting quality standards; not meeting federal standards. There could be petitions by others as well to get the process underway, particularly since some local government might not have the capacity to begin the process.

We discussed whether an individual landowner might petition should be included as trigger. Several noted that this approach is not intended to be a dispute resolution process for individual landowners.

Structure: several supported having a point agency that people could go to, that has some resources for modeling efforts, etc. Monitoring efforts - need analysis, etc. Encourage people to work together, but then there needs to be some leverage.

Costs: Each step costs money. To do an analysis of watersheds at risk, we need information from users. MGS thinks that for the first step of analysis, we have the information we need from the water use reporting program and other readily available sources. We need to consider how well can we use this format to manage transaction costs. In the Freeport example: high cost for a small problem. The tiered approach outlined in the MGS chart has potential. But the process will fail if transaction costs are too high.

Ownership: We need to consider the ownership issue and the duration of allocations. Uses can be changed over time. What are rights of other property owners when allocations happen?

Assignment for May 12 meeting:

Participants should fill in the middle column with their thoughts on the implementation of a watershed approach to water management.

Meeting participants

N. Beardsley, Maine Drinking Water Program
D. Bell, Agricultural Council of Maine
G. Bergoffen, Fryeburg
C. Bohlen, Trout Unlimited
T. Brennan, Nestle Waters/Poland Spring
B. Ferdinand, Eaton Peabody
P. Gauvreau, Attorney General Office
T. Glidden, State Planning Office
J. Harker, Maine Department of Agriculture
K. Hebert, Maine Rural Water Association
T. Hobbs, Maine Potato Board
M. Loiselle, Maine Geological Survey
R. Knowlton, Aqua Maine Inc.
R. Marvinney, Maine Geological Survey
K. Mayland, Trout Unlimited
J. McKee, Kingfield
J. McNelly, Maine Water Utilities Association
M. Shannon, Maine Congress of Lake Associations
M. Spencer-Famous, LURC
K. Taylor, St. Germain Assoc.
S. Timpano, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
A. Tolman, Maine Drinking Water Program
J. Wilfong, Fryeburg
A. Wong, Maine Rural Water Association

Water Management Options for discussion purposes only

For discussion purposes, we assume that:

  • surface water and ground water resources should be treated as a single resource.
  • the basic geographic unit for water resources management is assumed to be a watershed.
Water Resources Support Group Maine Water Resources Management Agency
Structure An informal group of water resources professionals from State agencies, water users, municipal government, other stakeholders. A newly formed State regulatory agency incorporating water resource-related programs from existing State agencies, including the DEP, LURC, Drinking Water Program, MGS, Agriculture, and others.
Scope Watersheds at risk, all water uses - surface and ground. All watersheds statewide, all water uses - surface and ground.
Triggering mechanism Cumulative water use exceeds XX% of available seasonal water supply, as determined by a coarse screening processORPetition by one or more local governments. All water withdrawals above a threshold (XX gallons per day) require a permit.
Responsibilities Coordinate State agency review of ground water and surface water withdrawal plans/applications.

Provide technical assistance to local governments and planning boards dealing with ground water and surface water withdrawal issues.

Facilitate discussions on water use and water needs.

Facilitate agreements between water users.

Identify areas for research.

Recommend policies to local and state levels.

Manage a water planning process/ assist communities with water resources planning efforts.

Facilitate distribution of revolving loans/ grants/ other financial instruments.
All current and future water resources permitting through one agency.

Identify watersheds at risk for increased regulation and for priority study.

Identify areas for research/ conduct studies of water resource supply and demand.

Recommend policies to local and state levels.

Manage a water planning process/ review and approve water withdrawal plans/applications

Establish water use priorities.

Establish water use policy.

Determine water allocation when necessary.

Distribute loans/grants, etc.
Process Tiered approach:
  • Tier 1: Conduct full assessment of water supply and demand, including build-out analysis of community water needs.
  • Tier 2: If Tier 1 analysis indicates need, work with parties to develop a water use management plan (similar to Aroostook agreement or Downeast Rivers). Agreements among users to limit uses, adjust periods of use, etc.
  • Tier 3: If conflict remains after Tier 2, then allocation/priority setting for water use.
Formal rule-making and permitting process:
  • Incorporate surface water flow rules.
  • Diminimus withdrawal/standard alteration process.
  • Water resource management plan process.
  • Permitting withdrawals
Authority Statutory authority to address allocation/priority setting only if planning and agreements fail to resolve problems. Statutory authorities of all current state agencies - DHS, DEP, DOC - with additional statutory authority for regulating surface and ground water withdrawals in watersheds at risk.

Last updated on September 5, 2006