Federal bill pumps $10M into Maine wildlife, water projects

Posted Oct. 30, 2009, at 9:39 p.m.

Wastewater treatment improvements in Limestone and Machias and land purchases crucial to sportsmen’s access to the Katahdin and Seboeis Lake regions are among the things paid for next year by a $10 million federal bill passed Thursday, the state’s congressional delegation announced.

Congress has approved the fiscal year 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Millinocket, said in statements Thursday.

“The bill includes important funding for Maine’s lakes, parks, national park and national wildlife refuges, water and sewer infrastructure, and land preservation,” Collins said. “This funding will help protect and preserve the natural beauty of our state.”

Funding for Maine includes:

ä $3.7 million to buy 19,647 acres as part of the Katahdin Forest Expansion, which will build upon Maine’s largest contiguous block of conservation lands and maintain working forest landscapes and recreational access in the Katahdin and Baxter State Park regions.

ä $500,000 for the design and construction of new wastewater pipes and pumping stations in the Limestone Water and Sewer District.

ä $500,000 for sewer system upgrades and extensions in the eastern part of Machias.

ä $500,000 to address the threat of invasive species to Maine lakes and ponds.

ä $1 million to buy nationally significant seabird nesting islands for the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

ä $1.25 million to the city of Portland for design and construction of infrastructure improvements to fix sewer overflows and stormwater runoff which pollute Deering Oaks Park and Pond.

ä $3 million to buy a 110-acre property to become part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The property includes undeveloped coastline, upland forests, wetlands and marshes that provide critical habitat for a wide variety of wildlife in Kennebunkport.

ä $500,000 for a Saint Joseph’s College-Maine Lakes Invasive Species-Habitat Restoration Initiative. The focus will be on the milfoil infestation threat in Little Sebago Lake and six other lakes as a “test bed” for the development of action plans against the invasive plant species at other Maine lakes.

“This bill provides support for community water infrastructure and environmental protection needs, such as the water projects in Limestone and Machias,” Michaud said. “With over 6,000 lakes and ponds, the task of preventing the spread of invasive aquatic species in Maine waters is one of the most difficult environmental challenges facing us today.”

The $3.7 million allocation, the bill’s largest, will complete the purchase of the Katahdin Forest Expansion project area, five parcels that will connect to existing recreation and conservation lands north and south of Millinocket.

Among other things, the purchased land complements and enhances previous federal investment in land protection around Baxter State Park; the view-shed from the summit of Mount Katahdin and the federally designated Appalachian Trail.

The tracts include portions of popular snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle trails important to the economy of the Katahdin and Seboeis Lake regions and northern Maine, said Alan Stearns, deputy director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“This funding is a key part of our effort to build a new balance for recreation in the North Woods,” Stearns said Friday. “We are managing to support backcountry wilderness while also supporting snowmobiling and sportsmen.”

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