Perry voters approve water regulations

Posted Aug. 18, 2014, at 8:30 p.m.

PERRY, Maine — Voters in the town of Perry overwhelmingly approved a new ordinance Monday that will regulate the development of water systems, posing a new set of hurdles for a water project proposed by the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point.

Residents voted 104-18 to approve the ordinance, which was months in development by a committee that included a tribe representative. They also voted 84-32 to approve another ordinance to regulate residential building construction and commercial site development. The measures are effective immediately.

“I’m not surprised,” Normand Laberge, the tribe’s staff engineer, said Monday evening. Tribe leaders will have to review the ordinance and confer before making a decision how to proceed, said Laberge, who planned to discuss it with them this week.

The water ordinance was drafted by a committee after tribal pump-out tests on exploratory wells in September 2013. The tests 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.

Residents voted 43-0 at a special town meeting two months later 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 Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to put the ordinances before residents in a vote that coincided with the town’s regular election of municipal officers.

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.

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

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

However, Laberge argued earlier that it may jeopardize the tribe’s water project because of the potential added cost and regulatory hurdles.

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