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Lawmakers on board with protections for Maine’s lakes and ponds


Lawmakers on board with protections for Maine’s lakes and ponds

Apr 04, 2024 | 5:34 am ET
By AnnMarie Hilton
Lawmakers on board with protections for Maine’s lakes and ponds
Variable-leaf milfoil. (Maine Department of Environmental Protection photo)

The Maine Legislature threw bipartisan support behind multiple bills to protect freshwater lakes and ponds in the state from burgeoning issues such as invasive species and shoreland zoning. 

“Our freshwater lakes and ponds are a core part of Maine’s identity,” said Francesca “Ches” Gundrum, advocacy director for Maine Audubon, in a news release. “The support from the Maine Legislature for these bills indicates a strong desire to keep our freshwater resources clean and healthy for our state’s wildlife and generations of Mainers to come.”

Maine Audubon, a statewide wildlife conservation organization, supported all four of the bills, which the House and Senate voted on over the past month. 

Fighting invasive species

As a result of the changing climate, invasive species, particularly Eurasian water milfoil, have increasingly crept into Maine’s fresh waterways, clogging lakes and ponds across the state. Two bills will specifically help address invasive species. They include:

  • LD 2141, which provides $2 million for the Invasive Aquatic Plant and Nuisance Species Fund to address aquatic plant infestations in inland waters. It also requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to recommend more stringent inspection protocols.
  • LD 1342 increases the cost of the sticker all motorized watercraft must display in Maine. In January 2025 and again in 2028, the cost will increase by $10 for in-state residents and $15 for out-of-state boats. The bill also reallocates the distribution of those fees so 70% goes to the Invasive Aquatic Plant and Nuisance Species Fund and the rest goes to the Lake and River Protection Fund.

LD 2141 was placed on the budget committee’s special appropriations table for discretionary funding. 

Shoreland zoning, wake boats

The other two bills target other threats to inland waters, namely shoreland zoning violations and boats that create extra large wakes. They include: 

  • LD 2101, which authorizes the Maine Land Use Planning Commission and municipalities to take action on shoreland zoning ordinance or statute violations. This could include revoking a permit, claiming a lien or filing a civil action. 
  • LD 2284, which addresses impact from wake boats by prohibiting a person from operating a motorboat in less than 15 feet of water or within 300 feet of the shoreline when the craft is engaged in a wakesurfing activity. It also promotes increased safety and education.