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Working together to protect Maine's inland waters

By Rep. Jess Fay

April 5, 2019

Rep. Jessica Fay

In Maine, and particularly in our region, the economy is closely tied to the environment and excellent water quality that we enjoy. In my role as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, I have the opportunity to work on issues that can positively impact both water quality and the environment.

This past week the House and Senate passed a bill that I sponsored entitled, "An Act To Protect Water Quality by Standardizing the Law Concerning Septic Inspection in the Shoreland Zone."

Not many of us really spend a lot of time thinking about our septic systems until they are obviously malfunctioning. But just because we can't readily see a problem doesnt mean that everything is working well. Usually we dont notice a septic system failure until it has become catastrophic, but a failure can go undetected for a long time.

Failing septic systems can be a source of phosphorous pollution, which leaches into our waterways and can cause algae growth and depleted oxygen. This negatively impacts water quality, especially in lakes, where the phosphorus can build up. And from there it impacts our economy.

The bill will require that before a house can be sold in the shoreland zone, it must have that septic system inspected. In the coastal shoreland zone, this has been the law for years. This bill will now extend that requirement to the inland shoreland zone as well.

This bill was a bi-partisan effort, with support from legislators from all around Sebago and Long Lakes, and it will provide better protection for our precious inland waters.

The bipartisan nature of this bill is a good representation of this Legislative Session. While we have disagreements amongst ourselves around policy, the members of the House and Senate are continuing to build relationships across the aisle. I have seen good compromises that have come because we are willing to work to try to solve some of the problems that our constituents face.

Weve already had agreement on improved solar policy and protections for folks with pre-existing conditions in Maines healthcare system.

This session has been really exciting for me because, in addition to ENR, I am also serving on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. They have already heard bills about extending ice fishing in the northern part of the state, increasing funding for mitigation of invasive aquatic species, improving ATV and snowmobile safety and allowing transfers of moose permits to disabled combat veterans. Meeting the folks from the department who work in our area has been a pleasure, and I am excited to be one of two women on the Committee and working with the first female IFW Commissioner. I was delighted to go on a den visit with some of Maines bear biologists to check on the health of a sow and her cubs. Im happy to report they were all a good weight and healthy. Meeting a three month old bear cub was certainly a highlight.

You may hear a lot about partisan disagreements in Augusta, but I have found that, most of the time, the members of the Legislature from both parties are just interested in doing what they can to make things better for Mainers. Things like acting together to protect our clean, clear water.

Fay is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland and Raymond. She serves on the Legislatures Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.