Proposed ordinance not meant to hinder water project in Perry, says board chair

Posted Aug. 15, 2014, at 3:32 p.m.

PERRY, Maine — A proposed ordinance to regulate the development of water systems is not intended to hinder efforts by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point to develop a regional water supply, the chair of the Perry Board of Selectmen said Friday.

Perry residents will vote on the proposed water ordinance and a second building-related ordinance at the town’s municipal building on Monday. The water ordinance was drafted by a committee after tribal pump-out tests on exploratory wells nearly a year ago.

The ordinance is “not meant to eliminate or prevent” the tribe’s water project, said Karen Raye, chair of the Board of Selectmen.

However, if approved by the town’s voters, it will ensure that the “lack of communication” that occurred over last year’s pump-out tests will “not be repeated,” she added.

The ordinance also provides that the town will have the resources to hire its own experts to verify information gathered by the tribe and its consulting engineers “because we’re not experts,” said Raye. The proposed ordinance allows town officials to engage consultants to review a permit application, and the cost would be borne by the applicant.

“They knew this was happening,” said Raye, referring to the tribe. “They knew the ordinance was in the works, and they participated in the process.”

A representative of the tribe served on the committee that drafted the ordinance and proposed it to the Board of Selectmen, although no one from the tribe attended the selectmen’s public hearing on the proposed ordinance, she noted.

The town has about 867 registered voters, according to Ray. However, typically fewer than 100 vote in the regular municipal elections.

“I don’t expect a large turnout,” she said.

The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to put the ordinances before residents in a vote that coincides with the town’s regular election of municipal officers. Each ordinance is a separate question on the ballot. Voting will be at the town’s municipal building 1-7 p.m. Monday.

The tribe, dissatisfied with the quality of water supplied by the Passamaquoddy Water District, a public utility that serves the reservation and the city of Eastport, has developed several exploratory wells in the town.

Tests last September prompted complaints from some residents that water levels in their wells dropped and their water was tainted. In response, town officials issued a stop work order. Then, residents voted 43-0 at a special town meeting in November to impose a 180-day moratorium on water exploration activities in order to allow the town time to develop an appropriate regulatory ordinance. The Board of Selectmen voted in April to extend the moratorium as the committee drafting the ordinance needed more time.

The tribe has a obtained a state permit for two wells that authorizes it to draw up to a combined 250 gallons per minute, according to Normand Laberge, the tribe’s staff engineer. That volume would be more than adequate to supply the water district, according to Laberge.

The town’s ordinance would jeopardize the tribe’s water project because of the potential added cost and regulatory hurdles, Laberge said earlier this week.

 

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