DEP Announces Air Quality Awareness Week

April 30, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov; or Tom Downs, Chief Meteorologist (207) 287-7026 tom.downs@maine.gov

Maine joins states across the nation in recognizing May 4 - 8, 2020 as Air Quality Awareness Week

AUGUSTA, MAINE, April 30, 2020 - The week of May 4th - May 8th is National Air Quality Awareness Week and Maine DEP would like to remind residents that the simple choices we make each day affect our air quality. Whether it's driving the car, mowing the lawn, or even turning the lights on, we all contribute a little bit to air pollution.

Although Maine enjoys some of the best air quality in the nation, our air is still impacted by pollutants like ground-level ozone and fine particles that impact the lungs and heart. Ozone is produced in sunlight from pollutants in the air while Particle Pollution consists of direct emissions of pollution in addition to being created by chemical reactions in a polluted air mass. Maine's peak ozone levels occur during the warmer summer months, while particle pollution levels are higher mostly during the summer and winter months.

Maine DEP forecasts Ozone and Particle Pollution year-round and is available on DEP's website, via toll free hotline, EnviroFlash emails and text messages as well as on Twitter. Forecasts are issued using a color-based Air Quality Index created by EPA. Green - good; Yellow - moderate; Orange - unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive people and Red - unhealthy pollution levels for all.

AQI Basics for Ozone and Particle Pollution
Daily AQI Color Levels of Concern Values of Index Description of Air Quality
Green Good 0 to 50 Air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
Yellow Moderate 51 to 100 Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
Orange Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 101 to 150 Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
Red Unhealthy 151 to 200 Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
Purple Very Unhealthy 201 to 300 Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
Maroon Hazardous 301 and higher Health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.

While sensitive people may feel the impacts sooner or at lower levels when the air is in the unhealthy for sensitive groups (USG) or higher category, everyone should think about ways to reduce their exposure. Please take some time to think about how you contribute to air pollution and what you can do to make a positive difference. Here are a few ways to help reduce air pollution in your community especially, on days when the air quality is expected to be unhealthy:

  • Conserve electricity
  • Choose a cleaner commute by carpooling or using public transportation where available
  • Combine errands, reduce trips
  • Defer the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment until early evening hours
  • Limit idling
  • Refuel vehicles after dusk
  • Use environmentally friendly paints and cleaning products

For more information about Air Quality visit Maine DEPs website at http://www.maine.gov/dep/air/index.html or follow air quality by region on Twitter at:

Acadia-MaineDEP
https://twitter.com/MEair_Acadia

Portland-MaineDEP
https://twitter.com/MEair_Portland

Lewiston-MaineDEP
https://twitter.com/MEair_Lewiston

Bangor-MaineDEP
https://twitter.com/MEair_Bangor

Maine DEP issues permit for the Clean Energy Connect project

May 11, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, MAINE, May 11, 2020 - Today, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a permit to Central Maine Power Company (CMP) for construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project. The project includes an electric transmission line from the Quebec border in Beattie Township to a new converter station in Lewiston, as well as several upgrades to CMP's existing electrical transmission network between Lewiston and Pownal, Windsor and Wiscasset, and in Cumberland. Approximately two-thirds of the 145-mile transmission line is proposed to be built along CMPs existing transmission corridor. The remainder of the line, known as Segment 1, would run through commercial timberland in western Somerset and Franklin counties.

DEPs issuance of the permit follows two and a half years of technical review, including extended evidentiary hearings and public hearings. In addition, on March 13, 2020, DEP released a draft of the permit for public comment. This comment period was later extended to account for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis. After careful consideration of the comments received, DEP issued a final permit for the project.

DEPs permit contains a set of conditions that minimize the projects environmental impact and require extensive land conservation and habitat protection plans. The conditions in the final permit retain all the protections from the draft permit. For example, the permit:

  • Limits the corridor width in Segment 1, originally proposed to be 150 feet, to 54 feet at its widest point, limiting visual and habitat impacts;
  • Requires preservation of natural forest canopy or trees at least 35 feet tall across the corridor in vulnerable habitat areas covering approximately 14 miles along Segment 1, protecting wildlife, wildlife movement, and plant species;
  • Requires the conservation of more than 700 acres of deer wintering habitat and the preservation of soft wood deer travel corridors across the transmission corridor in an important deer wintering area along the Kennebec River;
  • Prohibits herbicide use throughout Segment 1 of the corridor;
  • Requires permanent conservation of 40,000 acres in western Maine; and
  • Requires CMP to set aside $1,875,000 for culvert replacement projects, which will enhance fish habitat by facilitating passage, reducing erosion, and improving water quality.

The final permit also imposes additional terms and conditions that ensure both the effectiveness of the permits protective provisions, and that the intended benefits are fully realized. These changes:

  • Require that CMP fully fund the removal and decommissioning of the Segment 1 transmission line after the life of the project;
  • Strengthen the permits land conservation provisions. The final permit requires CMP to develop a Conservation Plan governing land use on 40,000 acres in the vicinity of Segment 1 and submit the Plan to DEP review and approval. The Conservation Plan must be designed to compensate for the fragmenting effects of the corridor, prioritize the conservation of large blocks of land, and promote conservation of mature forest habitat;
  • Require that CMP actively manage vegetation along the tapered sections of Segment 1 to maximize benefits to wildlife.

Collectively, the requirements of the permit require an unprecedented level of environmental protection and compensatory land conservation for the construction of a transmission line in the State of Maine.

DEP appreciates the participation of the parties in the evidentiary hearings, and the thoughtful comments from Maine citizens throughout the review process. To review the permit, public comment and response documents, permit application materials, correspondence, transcript of the public hearing and other DEP documents associated with the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) permit review, visit https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/projects/necec/index.html

Maine Climate Council to hear draft climate change strategies over two-day virtual meeting

June 16, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov or Anthony Ronzio, Deputy Director, Governor's Office of Policy Innovation & the Future (207) 624-7410 anthony.ronzio@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, June 16, 2020 - Six expert working groups of the Maine Climate Council will present draft strategies for addressing climate change in Maine during the Council's two-day virtual meeting on June 17 and 18.

The presentation of these draft strategies is a key milestone in the Councils charge to deliver a comprehensive four-year Climate Action Plan to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020, as outlined in state law. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council swiftly shifted to all-virtual processes in mid-March to meet this deadline.

"I want to commend everyone involved with the Council and Working Groups for their resolve during the disruption from COVID-19 to meet this milestone," said Jerry Reid, co-chair of the Council and commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. "It has been amazing to see so many Maine people devote their time and talents to develop this thoughtful set of draft strategies."

The goal of the Council is to recommend ways for Maine to address the threat of climate change in an economical and equitable way, meet greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy generation targets, grow lasting economic opportunities across the state through innovation and new industries, and ensure communities, industries and people are resilient to the effects of climate change.

These strategies come at a time that, despite the significant global economic and social disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, world climate trends remain unchanged and unsettling. A recent analysis released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency found the average global land and water temperature last month was tied for the highest of any month of May since 1880. The agency also reported 2020 has 99.9 percent probability of being among the top five warmest years on record.

"These climate trends are tremendously concerning, and the world we leave to our children depends on our actions today," said Hannah Pingree, co-chair of the Maine Climate Council and Director of the Governors Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. "These draft strategies are a critical step forward for Maine to determine its climate future, protect our communities from climate-induced harms, and identify opportunities to help our states economy recover from COVID-19."

The draft strategies presented this week are the product of the Councils six Working Groups: Transportation, Natural and Working Lands, Coastal and Marine, Buildings, Infrastructure and Housing, Energy, and Community Resilience Planning, Public Health and Emergency Management. These groups, plus a Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, have met publicly since last fall to evaluate options and compile a set of draft strategies for the council to consider.

Later this summer, the Council is expected to receive a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the draft strategies to further inform its deliberations on the Climate Action Plan prior to its next scheduled quarterly meeting in September. The law requires the state to achieve a 45% reduction in green-house gas emissions by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050, and the plan is required to support those targets.

Following the presentation to the Council, the public will be invited to respond to the draft strategies via a new online portal, off-line toolkit, and virtual seminars. In-person gatherings are also under consideration, if they can be held safely to protect public health and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

The Maine Climate Council, which was proposed by Governor Mills in April 2019 and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature, is an assembly of science and technical experts, business and nonprofit leaders, key state leaders, bipartisan municipal leaders, a tribal representative, a representative of Maine youth and other engaged citizens.

In addition to recommending new policy through the Climate Action Plan, the Council will monitor the states progress quarterly, report progress on its goals every two years to the people of Maine and update the Climate Action Plan every four years.

The Councils two-day virtual meeting is open to the public, but registration for the Zoom webinar is required. For the meeting agenda, supporting materials, and registration information, please visit: www.maine.gov/future/initiatives/climate/climate-council

Maine's lakes could experience increased algae blooms this summer

July 7, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, July 7, 2020 - With record heat and drought-like conditions, Maine's lakes are more likely to experience algal blooms according to Linda Bacon, Maine DEP's head lakes biologist. Algae are a natural part of healthy freshwater ecosystems, but algae, like land plants love warmth and sun. With abundant sunshine, warm weather and plenty phosphorus from the spring's runoff we have perfect conditions for an algal bloom. When a lake is blooming people often describe the lake water as green.

Maine DEP describes an algal bloom as a nuisance bloom when the clarity of the water is 2 meters (6.6 feet) or less. If the water clarity is less than 1 meter (3.3 feet), Maine considers it a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). It is important to know that not all lakes that bloom and not all lakes that are experiencing a HAB are producing toxins.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins which if ingested can cause illness and even death in people, livestock or pets. Since there is no quick and easy test to tell if a blooming lake is safe, Bacon recommends that when in doubt, stay out. If the lake looks green or cloudy or you cant see the bottom through 4-5 feet of water (about chest height) because the water is too green, don't go in. Keep yourself and your pets out of any water that looks discolored, smells bad, or has scum on the surface. Bacon adds that scums pushed by wind to the shoreline will have the highest levels of toxins. Scums often stink, which attracts dogs to investigate and drink. Don't let them drink this water.

Maine has no reported human or pet cases of HAB poisonings but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Maine has seen an increasing number of lakes with more regular nuisance algal blooms. This is due to climate change and too much phosphorus being washed into our lakes during storm events.

Jeff Dennis, a DEP biologist who has studied the interaction between land use and water quality for nearly 50 years, states that "phosphorus attached to soil particles is washed off our roads, driveways, and agricultural fields and enters our lakes during storm events. These phosphorus sources in combination with phosphorus that is being recycled from lake bottom sediments is over feeding algae in some of our lakes. If we want to keep our lakes healthy and avoid nuisance or HABs we must reduce the amount of phosphorus entering our lakes."

Dennis adds that Maine doesn't have to resign itself to blooming lakes, and we can prevent most from blooming by taking a few easy steps. Work to reduce phosphorus inputs to the lake not only from lake shore properties, but from all areas that drain to the lake by seeding and mulching bare soil, diverting driveway runoff into stable vegetated areas, and by properly maintaining gravel roads. To learn more about good shoreline property management check out Maine Lake Society's LakeSmart program https://mainelakessociety.org/lakesmart/ and gravel road maintenance https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/watershed/camp/road/

To learn more about algae blooms, lakes most likely to bloom, or HABs, visit Maine DEP's https://www.maine.gov/dep/water/lakes/algalbloom.html

Maine DEP reports a third invasive aquatic plant species in Cobbosseecontee Lake

July 14, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

Two other invasive plants were found in the lake in 2018

AUGUSTA, July 14, 2020 - Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed (FOCW) plant surveyors recently found a suspicious water-milfoil in Jug Stream, just downstream of the Annabessacook Lake dam. Suspected to be the invasive variable-leaved water-milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum), a plant sample was sent to a St. Joseph's College lab in Standish with the ability to confirm identification of water-milfoils. Luc Bernacki of St. Josephs College confirmed to Maine Department of Environmental Protection that the plant is variable-leaved water-milfoil, a prohibited plant species in Maine.

"Discovery of this plant in Cobbossee is not a complete surprise since it's been in upstream Annabessacook for several years, but it's still very disappointing," said John McPhedran of DEP's Invasive Aquatic Species Program. "The Cobbossee Lake community is fortunate to have three strong organizations - Cobbossee Yacht Club Lake Association, Cobbossee Watershed District and Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed working to protect the resource. Maine DEP joins them in rapid response to this new infestation."

Since the discovery, FOCW and Maine DEP plant surveyors and divers have surveyed for and removed the invasive milfoil in Jug Stream. During the week of July 13th, a contractor specializing in invasive aquatic plant surveys and removal will be deployed by Maine DEP to fortify the ongoing efforts. FOCW, with assistance from Lake Stewards of Maine volunteer surveyors, will expand their plant surveys into the southwest corner of Cobbossee Lake to determine if variable water-milfoil is established farther into the lake.

Infestations result in habitat disruption, loss of property values, diminished water quality, reduced fishing and water recreation opportunities and significant expense for mitigating these environmental costs.This recent discovery highlights the need for all users of Maine water resources to clean boats, trailers and fishing gear, drain live well, bilge and engine water away from waterbodies, and dry boats and gear before and after use.

Maine DEP reports drought and irrigation related impacts to surface waters in Aroostook County

August 24, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov or Bill Sheehan, Director, DEP Northern Maine Regional Office (207) 554-0783 bill.j.sheehan@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, August 24, 2020 - The majority of Aroostook County is experiencing an increasingly severe drought with moderate drought conditions in the rest of the county. As a result, water levels in many streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands are at low levels. Stream and river flows are particularly low with flows well below the summer season August median level since early June. Unfortunately, low precipitation amounts and warmer temperatures that are anticipated to become more frequent in summer months due to climate change create favorable conditions for droughts.

Stream and river water levels below the August median level can not legally be used as a water source for irrigation without site specific DEP approval. Irrigation withdrawal during the current drought conditions will further lower stream and river levels and may result in dewatering of segments and fish kills that are a violation of law. Withdrawals from lakes, ponds, or other wetlands may similarly result in worsening environmental impacts. Conservation or other best practices that reduce the amount of water withdrawal are encouraged.

Additional Resources:

DEP awards first round of 2020 grants for recycling and organics management initiatives

August 26, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, August 26, 2020 - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced the first round of 2020 Waste Diversion grant award recipients for recycling and organics management projects statewide. These projects are targeted to divert waste from disposal by expanding composting and recycling opportunities across Maine. DEP received 17 proposals requesting a total of $461,247.39 and will award $129,627.75 to fund 7 of these projects. Maine DEP is providing these grants to help businesses, institutions and municipalities address solid waste management challenges.

Reducing the volume of materials we consume by reusing items, and recycling products and packaging can significantly reduce our environmental impacts and help to enhance sustainability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut our overall costs.

Maine DEP is pleased to award funds for the following projects across the state:

ScrapDogs Community Composting, LLC, Rockland - $12,700

Chickadee Compost, Blue Hill Peninsula - $40,000.00

Barn Boards and More, LLC, Gardiner - $23,300.00

Town of Lisbon, Lisbon - $6,000.00

DM&J Waste, Ellsworth - $34,450.00

Unity Area Regional Recycling Center (UARRC) - $7,107.75

Town of Kennebunk - $6,070.00

DEP plans to solicit another round of waste diversion grant proposals in October 2020.

DEP grant proposals now being accepted for municipal culvert and stream crossing projects

September 1, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov or John Maclaine, Non-Point Source Training Coordinator (207) 615-3279 john.maclaine@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, September 1, 2020 - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is administering $5 million dollars in a single round of grant funding to assist municipalities with stream crossing upgrades and replacements. These monies fund competitive grants that match local funding for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings which to date has resulted in financial assistance to over 100 projects statewide. The projects awarded will provide public infrastructure benefits by replacing culverts that are currently failing and at risk of complete washouts, opens or improves fish spawning habitat, eliminates undersized and other impassable culverts and reduces some of the worst erosion impacts to streams, brooks, and lakes. The grant RFP application is available starting September 1, 2020, with proposals due by November 16, 2020.

To help municipalities and others involved with these projects better understand the grant program and requirements, a pre-recorded online workshop is now available. This workshop is highly recommended for anyone applying for a grant and is available on the DEP's Stream Crossing Grants Program web page: https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/grants/stream-crossing-upgrade.html

The RFP, Application, Question & Answer Summary, and other information related to this RFP can be obtained at the following website: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/bbm/procurementservices/vendors/grants

Maine Climate Council to begin review of climate change strategies, new research

September 8, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov or Anthony Ronzio, Deputy Director, GOPIF (207) 624-7410 anthony.ronzio@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, September 8, 2020 - The Maine Climate Council's work to create a four-year Climate Action Plan for Maine resumes this fall with a slate of virtual public meetings starting Wednesday, September 9.

To create its plan, the Council will unite expert strategies to combat climate change put forward by its six working groups in June with new research on the economic and environmental impacts of climate change and the solutions to address it.

This research includes cost/benefit analyses and data modeling of the climate strategies proposed by the Council working groups, as well as an analysis about the "cost of doing nothing" about climate change on Maine.

Later this fall, the Council will also receive a detailed equity assessment of its proposed climate change strategies, which evaluates their potential impact on underrepresented communities. This assessment was undertaken this summer in collaboration with the Senator George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine.

Public feedback on the proposed climate strategies will also be shared with the Council this fall. Since the strategies were unveiled in June, the Council has received thousands of responses from people across Maine, who shared their opinions through online surveys, virtual public events, and written comments.

The Climate Council will continue to take written comment on the strategies through Sept. 24, 2020. Instructions for sending comments are available on the Councils website, climatecouncil.maine.gov.

Despite the global economic and social disruptions caused by COVID-19, world climate trends remain unchanged and unsettling. In Maine, the city of Portland experienced its warmest summer on record in 2020. A recent analysis released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency found that Julys global land and water temperature was the second highest on record. The agency also reports 2020 has 99.9 percent probability of being among the top five warmest years on record.

The threat to Maine from climate change is growing, and no aspect of Maine life will be untouched by its effects, said Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governors Office of Police Innovation and the Future and Council co-chair. The Council has the all the ingredients to create a plan to combat climate change that will protect our environment, prompt economic recovery, and ensure all Maine people are heard.

Melanie Loyzim, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, will be joining Pingree as Council co-chair to replace Jerry Reid.

Im excited and honored to help this Council create a robust plan to address climate change, said Loyzim. Indisputable climate science and alarming warming trends point to the need for serious action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and build resiliency in our communities.

The Maine Climate Council, which was proposed by Governor Mills in April 2019 and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature, is an assembly of science and technical experts, business and nonprofit leaders, key state leaders, bipartisan municipal leaders, a tribal representative, a representative of Maine youth and other engaged citizens.

The goal of the Council is to recommend ways for Maine to address the threat of climate change in an economical and equitable way, meet greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy generation targets, grow lasting economic opportunities across the state through innovation and new industries, and ensure communities, industries and people are resilient to the effects of climate change.

The Council is charged to deliver a comprehensive four-year Climate Action Plan to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020, as outlined in state law. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council swiftly shifted to all-virtual processes in mid-March to meet this deadline.

In addition to recommending new policy through the Climate Action Plan, the Council will monitor the states progress quarterly, report progress on its goals every two years to the people of Maine and update the Climate Action Plan every four years.

The Councils virtual meetings are open to the public, but registration for the Zoom webinar is required. For the meeting schedule and registration information, please visit: climatecouncil.maine.gov.

DEP seeks second round of proposals for waste diversion grants

October 9, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, October 9, 2020 - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is soliciting grant proposals to support the development, implementation or improvement of programs, initiatives or activities designed to increase the diversion of solid waste from disposal.

Members of the public and private sector are encouraged to apply.

During this spring's first round of grants, the DEP awarded a total of $129,627.75 to fund 7 waste diversion projects across Maine. These grants are supporting efforts to: increase efficiencies, prevent runoff, and upgrade facilities at a regional composting operation; expand a municipal glass recycling program; increase recycling of scrap wood from barn demolitions statewide; establish a year-round composting operation in coastal community; support community composting efforts with backyard compost training and equipment; improve an existing community food scrap collection drop-off point; and improve the efficiency of food scrap collections along in the mid-coast area.

A copy of the RFP, as well as the Question & Answer Summary and all amendments related to this RFP, can be obtained at the following website: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/bbm/procurementservices/vendors/grants

All interested municipalities, regional associations, counties and Maine businesses are encouraged to apply. The DEP will award multiple grants of up to $40,000 ($125,000 total), and is seeking proposals that:

  • take advantage of regional economies of scale,
  • specify reuse and repair infrastructure and program development
  • increase organics management and recycling infrastructure in underserved areas of the state,
  • promote waste reduction through reuse, repair and sharing economy initiatives,
  • address a statewide need, and/or
  • expand the types of materials managed through composting and recycling.

Application details on the RFP # 202009145 - "Waste Diversion Grants Program" are available on-line at Request for Proposals, Maine DEP. Questions on the RFP must be submitted by October 31, 2020, and proposals must be submitted electronically by 4:00 p.m. November 16, 2020.

Maine DEP delays enforcement of polystyrene foam and plastic bag bans

December 22, 2020

Contact: David Madore, Communications Director (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, December 22, 2020 - A statewide ban on single-use plastic carry-out bags had been scheduled to go into effect January 15, 2021 and the polystyrene foam disposable food service container ban had been scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2021 however, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is delaying its enforcement of the laws that ban the use of these products until July 1, 2021.

The Department is taking this approach in response to several practical and logistical effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has disrupted traditional food marketing and packaging supplies. Demand for groceries, "curbside pickup," and takeout food has increased, while the demand for paper bags and thicker reusable plastic bags has also increased resulting in substantially less supply of both 4 mil reusable plastic bags and paper bags - the substitutes allowed for single-use plastic carry-out bags under the bag law. Additionally, due to concerns over possible virus transmission, many retailers have asked customers not to bring reusable bags from home, moving consumers back to store-supplied single-use bags.

The pandemic is also causing a similar disruption with alternatives to polystyrene foam disposable food service containers that fall under the ban. In addition to a disruption in available packaging supplies, COVID-19 safety protocols have led to greater caution with handling of food and beverages and increased demand for disposable food service ware. Schools, homeless shelters, and other groups are providing more food in disposable packaging than before the pandemic. Therefore, the Department has decided to exercise its enforcement discretion to not enforce the single-use plastic carry-out bag ban and 5¢ fee, and the polystyrene foam disposable food service container ban until July 1, 2021.

The delay in enforcement of these bans is not intended to downplay the importance of eliminating single-use plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene foam disposable food service containers from the waste stream, but rather to address current concerns related to impacts of the pandemic. The Department strongly encourages those that use single-use plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene foam disposable food service containers to use this additional time to focus on procuring alternatives to these products and on depleting current stocks of these products before the July 1, 2021 enforcement date. The Department previously delayed the statewide prohibition on single-use plastic carry-out bags from its effective date of April 22, 2020.

More information regarding the plastic bag ban and the polystyrene foam food service container ban can be found on the Department's website at:

Over $2.4 million awarded for natural resource conservation in Maine

February 2, 2021

Contact: David Madore, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (207) 287-5842, david.madore@maine.gov; Jeremy Cluchey, The Nature Conservancy in Maine (207) 607-4843, jeremy.cluchey@tnc.org; Tim Dugan, New England District Corps of Engineers (978) 318-8264, timothy.j.dugan@usace.army.mil

AUGUSTA, February 2, 2021 - Eleven projects to restore, enhance, or protect wetlands and other important natural resources around the state have been selected to receive funding from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP), the Department of Environmental Protection announced today.

Projects awarded funding in this round include a dam removal project in Vassalboro, a tidal culvert upgrade in Cape Elizabeth, and conservation of high-value wetlands at sites ranging in size from 24 acres to nearly 500 acres. Conservation projects are located in 6 Maine counties and include the towns of Masardis, Winthrop, Chebeague Island, Georgetown, Harpswell, Oxford, Fryeburg, Sanford, and South Berwick. In total, $2,455,038 was awarded to restore or enhance almost 10 acres of wetlands and help conserve over 1,300 acres of wetlands and associated upland buffer.

"MNRCP has become one of Maine's most important tools for conservationists and developers to work together to protect fragile wetland habitats," said Acting Commissioner Melanie Loyzim of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Its a win for Maines natural environment, and its win for Maines economy.

MNRCP was created to help offset unavoidable impacts to natural resources at one site by funding the restoration or preservation of similar resources at another site within the same region of the state. In all, more than 130 projects across Maine have been funded since the program began in 2008.

The program offers an efficient and workable alternative for permit applicants after all efforts have been made to avoid or minimize wetland impacts. In-lieu fees are collected from approved applicants by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund. Public agencies, municipalities, and non-profit conservation organizations apply through an annual, competitive process to use these funds for restoration, enhancement, or preservation of aquatic resources in Maine.

Proposals are then evaluated and ranked by a Review Committee, which is convened by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and made up of public and nonprofit entities. The final funding decisions are made by an Approval Committee comprised of state and federal agencies.

Heading into its 13th review cycle, MNRCP is one of the most successful of the state-wide In Lieu Fee compensatory mitigation programs in New England and the country, said Jay Clement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Project Office. The program offers greater predictability and streamlining of state and federal wetland permitting processes which benefits developers and regulators alike and helps restore and protect Maines important natural resources. Maines citizens and visitors appreciate the states freshwater and marine ecosystems and this vital program helps ensure their long-term viability and societal benefit.

The Nature Conservancy administers the process and is responsible for seeing that the projects are executed. In this administrative role, the Conservancy does not have a vote on which proposals are approved for funding.

Its important to have high-quality compensation for the impacts associated with development in the state, and this program helps ensure Maine sees that, said Bryan Emerson, mitigation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. MNRCP has been successful at focusing conservation efforts on key habitat areas and providing much-needed funding for important, long-lasting conservation projects to applicants from all parts of Maine.

The collaboration between Maine DEP, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is critical for supporting a strategic process resulting in compensation projects that are saving and strengthening our states highest value wetland habitats, Loyzim said. Recipients of this year's project funding include the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Kennebec Land Trust, Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust, Maine Rivers, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Greater Lovell Land Trust, Three Rivers Land Trust, Great Works Regional Land Trust, and the Town of Cape Elizabeth.

In 2021, MNRCP will be seeking more projects that restore or protect coastal ecosystems, including salt marshes, eelgrass beds, and other intertidal and subtidal habitats. MNRCP carefully tracks the resources that have been impacted in the state and works hard to fund conservation projects that compensate for those specific resources that are being impacted. In recent years, MNRCP has seen an uptick in impacts to coastal resources, and therefore will prioritize funding for projects in the coastal environment in 2021.

For more information about the Maine Natural Resource Conservation program, visit http://mnrcp.org/

New round of municipal stream crossing grants awarded by Maine DEP

March 8, 2021

Contact: David Madore, Acting Deputy Commissioner (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, March 8, 2021 - Maine voters approved a bond package in 2018 that included $5 million dollars for vital infrastructure improvements at municipal stream crossings. These monies fund competitive grants that match local funding for the upgrade of culverts at stream crossings on municipal roads. The awarded projects will benefit public infrastructure and safety by replacing failing culverts that are at risk of complete washout or collapse; reduce flooding and increase resiliency with the installation or larger, higher capacity and longer-lived crossings. The upgraded crossings will also benefit fish and wildlife by opening and reconnecting stream habitat fragmented by undersized and impassable culverts, represent a cost-effective and efficient investment, and match local funds committed to the project.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) received 47 applications totaling over $5.5 million dollars in funding requests. The forty-two stream crossing projects funded this round will result in new or improved fish passage to nearly 100 miles of streams statewide. Previous rounds of culvert grants have resulted in the distribution of $10.7 million in bond funds for 130 infrastructure improvements in Maine communities statewide.

Maine DEP is pleased to announce funds for the following 42 projects across the State:

MUNICIPALITYPROJECT LOCATIONAMOUNT AWARDED
AuburnFish Hatchery Road$125,000
BangorGrandview Avenue$68,358.33
BiddefordGranite Point Road$125,000
Blanchard TownshipTaylor Road$125,000
BowdoinhamDingley Road$125,000
Cathance TownshipEast Ridge Road$125,000
CorinnaLine Road$125,000
CorinnaSunken Bridge Road$125,000
DedhamBald Mountain Road$125,000
DenmarkMoose Pond Road$125,000
Dover-FoxcroftGrove Street$125,000
DurhamQuaker Meeting House Road$125,000
EddingtonClewleyville Road$70,000
EddingtonDavis Road$75,000
FairfieldOld Country Road$125,000
FalmouthMast Road$125,000
FayetteJackman's Mill Road$125,000
HartlandFuller Corner Road$125,000
HollisMuddy Brook Road$125,000
LitchfieldDead River Road$125,000
LitchfieldDead River Road$50,000
LudlowLudlow Road$125,000
MillinocketPenobscot Avenue$125,000
MonroeDixmont Road$125,000
Mount DesertBeech Hill Cross Road$125,000
NaplesEdes Falls Road$125,000
NaplesHorace Files Road$110,000
NorwayMorse Road$85,000
ParisParson Road$125,000
PeruPackard Road$76,180
PownalPoland Range Road$125,000
DurhamSwamp Road$125,000
RocklandWest Meadow Road$125,000
SabattusMarsh Road$125,000
SabattusMarsh Road$96,000
ThomastonBeechwood Street$125,000
Trescott TownshipWilcox Road$125,000
WellsBragdon Road$125,000
WillimanticElliotsville Road$125,000
WillimanticMountain Road$125,000
WiscassetOld Ferry Road$125,000
WoodstockOld County Road$125,000

For more information including examples of successful applications and the master score sheet for this round please visit Maine DEP's website: https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/grants/stream-crossing-upgrade.html

DEP seeks applicants for waste diversion grants

March 19, 2021

Contact: David Madore, Deputy Commissioner (207) 287-5842 david.madore@maine.gov

AUGUSTA, March 19, 2021 - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is soliciting grant proposals to support the development, implementation or improvement of programs, initiatives or activities designed to increase the diversion of solid waste from disposal.

Last year, the DEP awarded a total of $272,323.07 to fund 14 waste diversion projects across Maine. These grants are supporting efforts to: increase efficiencies, prevent runoff, and upgrade facilities at a regional composting operation; expand a municipal glass recycling program; increase recycling of scrap wood from barn demolitions statewide; establish a year-round composting operation in coastal community; support community composting efforts with backyard compost training and equipment; improve an existing community food scrap collection drop-off point; and improve the efficiency of food scrap collections along in the mid-coast area.

A copy of the RFP, as well as the Question & Answer Summary and all amendments related to this RFP, can be obtained at the following website: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/bbm/procurementservices/vendors/grants

All interested municipalities, regional associations, counties and Maine businesses are encouraged to apply. The DEP will award multiple grants of up to $40,000 ($125,000 total), and is seeking proposals that:

  • take advantage of regional economies of scale,
  • Specify reuse and repair infrastructure and program development
  • increase organics management and recycling infrastructure in underserved areas of the state,
  • promote waste reduction through reuse, repair and sharing economy initiatives,
  • address a statewide need, and/or
  • expand the types of materials managed through composting and recycling.

Application details on the RFP # 202103040 - "Waste Diversion Grants Program" are available on-line at Request for Proposals, Maine DEP. Questions on the RFP must be submitted by March 29, 2021, and proposals must be submitted electronically by 4:00 p.m. April 19, 2021.