LD 1643/ Public Law chapter 452
Work Group - Review of Ground Water Regulations 2005-2006
May 12, 2006

Meeting Notes

Goal for this meeting: Review participants' thoughts on the matrix of possible options for ground water management presented at the April meeting (see April meeting notes).

Hopeck: Watershed process - we need to consider how to match such an approach in NRPA and Site Law. The in-stream flow rules (in development) should address impacts of ground water withdrawals on surface water.

Bell: An approach needs to consider how to deal with the subsequent applicants for water withdrawals when a watershed is identified as "at risk".

Knowlton: MGS should take the major role of hydrogeology, basin analysis, etc.

Bergoffen: The process must recognize local control. More towns are developing ordinances.

Spencer-Famous: LURC looks at broad environmental impacts. A watershed approach could be integrated with current processes.

McKee: Home rule advocate. Multiple municipalities can be a real problem. There should be a mechanism that allows municipalities in watershed to convene to review and work out own solutions. This may need some enabling legislation but not a new permitting procedure. Simpler is better. Do more at home.

Taylor: There could be value to statewide permitting to get data. The process should avoid redundancy. Avoid asking information that another agency collects.

A threshold could be established with permit-by-rule. Applications could be submitted with involvement by a certified geologist.

Harker: Expressed concerns about the cost of studies and who bears these costs. What will the impact be on a small farmer that irrigates 1-2 acres of vegetables?

Marvinney: Comments on flow rules. The scrutiny of ground water withdrawals that comes out of this process will not ignore potential impacts on surface waters, but this is not the key objective of this process. Those impacts will be addressed through the flow rules.

Bergoffen: The flow rules do not address town concerns. We should develop a decision tree that clarified the process.

Spencer-Famous: We need to consider other potential impacts and define what we mean by sustainable.

Knowlton: Reviewed his response to the management options presented by MGS at the April meeting. A group would come together and discuss what adverse means, inputs of wells, etc. Not a request to MGS to become a review agency.

Tolman: Reviewed his thoughts on management options which are based on some other areas of the country. He outlined basically a judicial system for situations involve multiple municipalities that can resolve disputes. To address issues in a watershed, a local group would be formed - paid for by water users. This process would usurp local control because watersheds almost always cross borders. At the highest tier, a loosely termed "water master" might have the ultimate authority on the distribution of water. Money would be needed for analysis and under this proposal each user pays according to withdrawals. A process like this needs to be self-funded if it is going to happen. This process would be self-regulating - it would only happen where it needs to happen because of user money.

Knowlton: Reviewed his comments on the management options. He outlined a process that is similar to the "Water Resources Support Group" in the original document of management options. (See end of these notes for Knowlton's comments.) Intended to provide some oversight on significant withdrawals, wherever they occur.

Timpano: Expressed concern that if a process is not statewide, it might miss things happening in other watersheds.

Bergoffen: Need a process in place that focuses on cumulative impacts. Process could be at local level, rather than proactive risk analysis. Petitioning by locals will determine if there is a risk.

Bohlen: There is considerable interest in getting good information and organizing it centrally. This might be easier to accomplish if the information gathering was not linked to permitting. Where are the gaps in information? A central data system will help identify areas of need.

Ahrens: Statewide process for withdrawals is a benefit.

Marvinney: Some information may come from well driller reports.

Harker: It might be worthwhile to consider registration of all wells; but, don't make everyone report.

Ahrens: Collecting information is great; but, may be not much benefit. The public will want more than the aggregate from reporting programs. The public wants to be sure water withdrawal is done responsibly.

Spencer-Famous: There is considerable value in monitoring of withdrawals, and we should be able to learn something from the monitoring that has already taken place.

Bell: With regard to water use reporting, 20,000 gallons per day is nothing in Maine. We need some education on volumes.

Harker: Outlined the viewpoint of Dept of Agriculture, which is similar to the left-hand column of the management options (see April notes). The Dept of Agriculture advocates an advisory council approach, with the state bringing in technical expertise. The Agriculture Water Board in the Department has authority on agricultural water issues.

Allocation Advisory Council: For most people, not a problem. We do not need a new process, but need to focus on real problems. The primary issue is: who does the studies of watersheds, over allocations, etc.? Also, there should be technical assistance to local communities. The tiered approach is good.

State policy is to support farmers in state. Agriculture has a grant program to help farmers install wells. 99% of farmers won't be a problem; we don't need more regulation. But registration of wells is OK, as long as there is no additional cost to farmers. LURC has good process; DWP has good process. There is a gap in DEP involving bottling, irrigation, snow making, and maybe some industrial processes. It might be best to treat Ag differently.

McKee: Agreed with the idea to treat farmers differently - need to support farmers.

Bergoffen: Need a prescribed process - possible through ordinance or process. Then a voluntary tiered approach - developing a plan; possible with some incentives, then possibly a final tier with a water "master".

Taylor: Some of this could be accomplished by tweaking current regulations - NRPA, and/or LURC, others - to address gaps.

Knowlton: We will still struggling with the local level. Ownership issues may drive us back to basics in statute. We should not recommend an approach that is oriented toward "reasonable use" without declaring Maine as a "reasonable use" state.

Ahrens: Maine really is no longer an "absolute dominion" state because of the controls currently in place. The shore land zoning model is intriguing; this would need the involvement of the Maine Municipal Association. How much of what we are discussing is new program versus amendment of existing programs? Would prefer specific separate program but one that recognizes other processes.

Bell: Some of these overall concepts are good, but need to address some specific issues:

  1. Need for information and good data.
  2. Stewardship/ownership incentives - need to look at what these might be.
  3. How to accomplish allocation in Tier 3 or Tier 4

Wilfong: Ground water ownership and "reasonable use" need to be addressed.

Ahrens: There are issues with municipalities do not want to/have no authority to evaluate impact outside of boundaries. When issues cross borders, then must go to a group/council for resolution.

Knowlton: This process would work better with two different approval steps: a review at state level for watershed concerns; a final review at municipalities. We cannot avoid detailed analysis in some towns. But the state should review the watershed first. There is a question of who should pay for this.

Marvinney: Group could also assist with technical advice, etc. The type of analysis done at the state level would be focused on sustainability within a watershed. This process will need an appropriate trigger mechanism. Maybe a registration that determines whether more analysis needed.

Knowlton: We need to consider how to administer such a program. The role of players in group is to bring perspectives, to decide on significance of particular activity.

McKee: Towns could use some guidance but not model ordinances. Towns have too many unique attributes.

Bergoffen: Regarding permitting authority, permitting by the state raises concerns about the protection of town.

Ahrens: A process needs to be clear as to what is regulated and what is not regulated.

Tilberg: We need a decision tree that identifies who makes decisions, when they should be made, goals of decisions, etc. State staff will work on a more detailed outline for discussion at the June meeting.

Meeting participants

C. Ahrens, Pierce Atwood LLC
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
J. Delahanty, Pierce Atwood LLC
J. Harker, Maine Department of Agriculture
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.
K. Tilberg, Maine Department of Conservation
S. Timpano, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
A. Tolman, Maine Drinking Water Program
J. Wilfong, Stow
A. Wong, Maine Rural Water Association

Knowlton comments on water management options

Water Resources Support Group
Structure An informal group of water resources professionals from State agencies, water users, municipal government, other stakeholders. A formal group consisting of staff from DEP, DWP, MGS, LURC, IFW, SPO, Ag, and DECD and 3-5 members of the public appointed by Commissioners of DEP, DHHS, and LURC to represent stakeholders.
Scope Watersheds at risk, all water uses - surface and ground. Reactive: Tier 2 Permit review and comment

Proactive: Review cumulative water use on a watershed basis.
Triggering mechanism Cumulative water use exceeds XX% of available seasonal water supply, as determined by a coarse screening process
Petition by one or more local governments.
All public water supply withdrawals need a permit from DWP.

All non-residential withdrawals >20,000 gpd need a permit (to fill gap in current regulatory scheme) by LURC, DEP or MGS.
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.
Review all Tier 2 permits

Provide technical assistance to municipal governments

Facilitate allocation issues within watersheds.
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.
Tier 1 Permits available when:
  • Withdrawal request <50% of available watershed yield
Tier 2 Permit required when:
  • Withdrawal request >50% of available watershed yield or
  • Adverse impact identified by lead permit agency
Annual withdrawal reporting identifies watershed at risk from cumulative use.
Authority Statutory authority to address allocation/priority setting only if planning and agreements fail to resolve problems. Established in rulemaking for permit review/comment.

Last updated on September 5, 2006