LD 1643/ Public Law chapter 452
Work Group - Review of Ground Water Regulations 2005-2006
June 16, 2006

Meeting Notes

Goal for this meeting: Review the very draft proposal circulated by the Maine Geological Survey for a Groundwater Coordinating Council, and modify, amend, eliminate in accordance with a consensus from the group.

Marvinney opened the meeting by stating that the very draft proposal circulated by the Maine Geological Survey generated lively responses, most of it in the negative sense. He emphasized that this was a draft proposal for discussion purposes only and that the Maine Geological Survey and others were not overly vested in the details of this proposal. He stated, only partially in jest, that a primary goal of circulating this "radical" proposal was to ensure good attendance at this meeting. But the basic concepts of the proposal -- to provide visible state agency coordination, to have a tiered approach based on watersheds, and to involve groups in developing management plans when there is concern about the volumes of water withdrawn from a watershed - are in keeping with our discussions of the past few meetings.

Marvinney committed to having the Maine Geological Survey try to make a map in time for the July meeting, that would be a first cut at identifying "watersheds at risk", using existing information. This will help us identify the scope of the issue.


Hodgdon: Creation of another agency doesn't make sense; there are few specific stakeholders in the proposed Coordinating Council. Most ground water use is in the public water sector. They already have a process, so exclude them from anything new.

Marvinney: The coordination council was proposed to address the concern, both real and perceived, that the state agencies are not coordinated. This was intended to provide visibility for coordination of state agencies. Under this scheme, watershed management groups would be convened for "watersheds at risk" that would involve all users.

Ahrens: The establishment of a new separate entity is an issue. There should be one lead agency, perhaps MGS, and other agencies can provide advisory comments on particular withdrawals as they do now. The lack of coordination is more with regards to data, not the review process, although there is some duplication there.

Spencer-Famous: This proposal has some good aspects. It provides consistency, predictability. The basic concept is good, but there should be more focus on how it is developed. The tiered approach and involvement of the regulated community are good.

Trial: The Atlantic Salmon Commission has a model for this without establishing a separate agency.

McKee: Legislation may likely be required for several aspects of such a proposal and asking for new resources will be difficult.

Hobbs: Coordination is one of the fundamental issues driving the current lack public confidence. The development of town ordinances is an example of the lack of confidence with the process at the state level.

Many regulations are in place already, but this is not well communicated. The unknown gives the appearance of being uncoordinated. There should be one point for communications.

Towns are trying to address issues without resources and they assume no state oversight.

Gaps in the regulations are small, possibly some that do not trigger Site Law, like agricultural uses.

Knowlton: There are many local concerns. There are different thresholds at different agencies in terms of adverse impacts. Not sure the state should get down to addressing local concerns.

Bohlen: Probably not one entity needed for all tasks.

Coordination is one issue; gaps are another. We need coordinating structure for communication. The "at risk" analysis should be done by MGS.

McNelly: Provided comments from water districts which were not supportive of an additional agency. Getting a new entity will be tough. There is more coordination than a few years ago, but we still could do more. The recent report to Legislature (Development of consistent hydrogeologic review procedures) demonstrated coordination. A subgroup of this group might critique this report with eye toward identifying more coordination and gaps. There is an on-going dance between the state and municipalities. Do we have enough resources? We need data to make good decisions.

Bell: Lack of coordination is a municipality perception.

There are concrete actions that could be taken right now to demonstrate coordination. The review of current regulations presented at an early meeting is a good document that might be improved, then sent out to towns with some discussion.

Ahrens: Municipalities are not responding from a uniform perspective. Town ordinances generally address what you can do. If a particular activity is not in a town ordinance, then you generally cannot do it. For a new activity, towns change ordinances to propose control. Some put moritoria in place until they can change ordinances.

Harker: Towns need support. Perhaps guidelines like Shoreland Zoning would be appropriate.

We should propose to help support towns. LURC's process is good. When issues involve multiple towns, the there should be state involvement.

There are just a few gaps in the regulations and agriculture might be one. Perhaps these are best addressed with minor "tweaks" of DEP regulations.

Data collection is the biggest problem to towns. They need more state support. MGS needs resources to provide more services.

342 farms pull water from wells; only 12 are required to report water use. Of the 12, 99% of the volume is Cherryfield Foods. We should address the huge wells. Cherryfield's consultant says none of their wells have an impact on sustainability, and only a few have had an impact on other resources.

The LURC process is good; it shows good coordination with state agencies.

Ahrens: How is sustainability defined?

Loiselle: We need to consider consumptive uses at rates greater than can be sustained over a period of time, perhaps focusing on periods of drought. One approach might be the Fryeburg example: discretionary water for other uses after other requirements are met.

Spencer-Famous: LURC tries to look at the water budget, but this becomes very site-specific in short order.

Bell: Some context on Cherryfield Foods: State policy drove them out of streams to wells.

Alternative water sources have cost $7 - $8 million.

Knowlton: Does water well reporting give some information on irrigation wells? There are probably very few wells capable of exceeding water use reporting thresholds. Maybe MGS could just look at this data.

Loiselle: MGS gets occasional information on irrigation wells. The water well reporting requirement is for wells for potable water.

Knowlton: Changing this to all new wells might be an easy fix to water well reporting.

Harker: We have the Agricultural Water Management Board.

A plan will be required for any new water source that requests monetary assistance. There might be things that this Board can do.

Hodgdon: There are only small holes in current regulations. This is more an issue of coordination that does not require a new agency. Responsibilities can be assigned to existing agencies.

Spencer-Famous: LURC does work to protect quality, but does not generally focus on quantity.

Marvinney: Before our July meeting, the state agencies will convene to discuss coordination and how we might "tweak" some regulations.

Bell: MGS should do the analysis of "at risk watersheds." We should review the statute that brought us here - focusing on impacts of water withdrawals. We need a definition of "undue adverse impact." Some additional thoughts:

  1. Identify effects that have happened so far from ground water use as guidance for solutions, tied to "at risk" watersheds.
  2. Review current experience as guidance for developing thresholds, etc.

Brennan: The size of problem should drive size of solutions. Towns provide a limited number of examples and issues.

Bohlen: This process should consider future use as well, such as the demands of increased population, etc. There could be future problems that we cannot identify now.

Hobbs: We should get a summary of water well reporting for estimates of volumes of water withdrawals.

Marvinney: It would be better to use population numbers to estimate use rather than summing well yields.

Harker: We don't want to come back next time there is an issue. MGS should have more resources to address science.

Spencer-Famous: Science and factual information are keys for looking at potential for undue impact. There is always uncertainty and the need to monitor. A consistent monitoring program would help towns.

McKee: Kingfield is not like Freeport. Kingfield has had a zoning ordinance in 1988. But the proposed bottling plant required the town to revisit the ordinance. Kingfield has had well head protection which is very restrictive. Kingfield solved this problem locally and does not want too much state involvement. We should consider the view point of the Maine Municipal Association.

Austin: Summary view - can we change a perception that there is no state review?

Can we fix some gaps? Shoreland zoning might be a model, but this is a mandatory program.

There must be a balance between reigning in some towns and not bringing in too many.

MMA will always accept model ordinances; but need care as to what this will mean in terms of number of towns focusing on this issue. Some guidance to towns would be helpful.

Knowlton: This is probably a very small universe. If there were some review of new ground water withdrawals at the threshold of reporting requirements, then we could almost guarantee compliance with sustainability because those putting in wells want sustainability. They do not want to deplete resource. Need to better communicate this to towns and others.

Hodgdon: What is the impact of large wells? Out of 50 large production wells, there are only 2 that show an impact. Pumping near a wetland has had some impacts. The way the Rangeley Water District got together with Nestle is example of exactly what we should do.

Bohlen: There are different impacts at different scales.

The State-level structure may not go down to level towns want and let them know what is being reviewed and what isn't.

There needs to be better definition of what is being reviewed and what isn't.

Delahanty: Has MMS had inquiries regarding groundwater withdrawal?

Austin: There probably are not a lot coming up but will check. But, where it does come up it is probably a big issue.

Trial: We need some way to look at cumulative uses.

Harker: More resources are needed at MGS. We need to think about the future; some land speculation underway on the basis of aquifer resources.

Taylor: "Tweaking" the existing regulatory systems to address the majority of loopholes, might be all that is necessary. There is value in better communication and coordination.

Knowlton: Cumulative impact won't be covered by "tweaking".

Beardsley: We need a proactive water resources plan.

Eberle: "Protecting and preserving" is better than "fixing and restoring". All parties to this issue are actually very close together. We need to address potential future impacts. The political reality is that using existing authorities is good. Will work to support additional resources.

Dow: Most work could be done within some agency; funding is short.

This isn't a major issue out into the public so there probably will be no additional resources.

Agencies should reduce duplication, but we may need some sort of coordinating agency. Maine generally has good water resources and this is not enough of an issue right now.

Next meeting

July 14, 2006


C. Ahrens, Pierce Atwood LLC
J. Austin, Maine Municipal Association
N. Beardsley, Maine Drinking Water Program
D. Bell, Agricultural Council of Maine
C. Bohlen, Trout Unlimited
T. Brennan, Nestle Waters/Poland Spring
T. Burrowes, Maine State Planning Office
J. Delahanty, Pierce Atwood LLC
D. Dow, Maine Senate
J. Eberle, Maine House of Representatives
P. Gauvreau, Office of the Attorney General
J. Harker, Maine Department of Agriculture
K. Hebert, Maine Rural Water Association
T. Hobbs, Maine Potato Board
A. Hodgdon, A.E. Hodgdon Associates
J. Hopeck, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
M. Loiselle, Maine Geological Survey
R. Knowlton, Aqua Maine Inc.
R. Marvinney, Maine Geological Survey
J. McKee, Town of Kingfield
J. McNelly, Maine Water Utilities Association
M. Shannon, Maine Congress of Lake Associations
M. Spencer-Famous, LURC
K. Taylor, St. Germain Assoc.
A. Tolman, Maine Drinking Water Program
J. Trial, Atlantic Salmon Commission
A. Wong, Maine Rural Water Association
Several guests from various water districts

Last updated on September 5, 2006