As everyone knows, Maine's two Republican Senators, Olympia
Snowe and Susan Collins, played a key role in passing President
Barack Obama's economic stimulus package earlier this month. So
what does Maine get from the stimulus package's heavy
There's no indication that horse-trading based on local needs was
part of the deal that Senators Collins and Snowe (along with
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter) finally made to help the
package get the necessary three-fifths majority (60 out of 100
votes) to pass the Senate. (No other Republicans in the Senate or
the House voted for the bill.) Generally, Maine is treated the same
as every other state in the spending program's formulas. It's still
early to say how, where, and when much of that money may eventually
get spent. But a look at the preliminary breakdowns gives some idea
of how Maine, and other coastal states, will be affected by the
federally-backed spending surge.
Coastal Journal passes on some figures supplied by Senator
Collins' office. Major chunks of the money come as continued or
increased spending on big existing programs that have no special
relevance for the building or remodeling industries. Top examples:
Maine will get $470 million in federal Medicaid money, and $116
million in food stamp dollars. Maine will also get a $196 million
from the "State Stabilization Fund" — general support for
state activities such as education, school construction and
maintenance, and public safety. Maine workers will also get a tax
credit of up to $400 apiece ($800 for couples).
A few line items may affect contractors and the building trades
directly. For example, Maine's low-income housing weatherization
program will get $42 million extra dollars to spend, and the
state's Energy Efficiency Program will get $27 million. And Maine
will get $50 million to spend on water and sewer
As Maine Goes ... When it comes to that last item — updating
the state's sewers — Maine has some "shovel-ready" projects.
Like most coastal states and most of the nation, Maine has a
problem with "combined flows" — a situation where stormwater
runoff and sewage flow through the same set of pipes and run to the
same place (the sewage treatment plant). In many communities, a
heavy rainstorm typically overwhelms the sewage treatment plant,
and overflows of untreated sewage run straight into rivers and the
ocean. A map posted on
The Vigorous North blog shows combined sewer overflow discharge
points located around the City of Portland, Maine.
Portland Combined Sewer Overflow Outlets
(CSO's) -- locations where street runoff combined with raw
sewage dumps into streams and ponds during wet weather -- are shown
as circles. Stars are locations that dump only street runoff, which
can contain animal feces.
According to the state Department
of Environmental Protection, 34 Maine communities have a total
of 190 combined overflow discharge points, resulting in an annual
flow of 1.5 billion to 3 billion gallons of mixed stormwater and
sewage to rivers and oceans each year. Those overflows violate both
state and federal clean water laws; state legislator
John Nutting is pushing a bill to force all of Maine's towns to
clean up their acts within four years.
Jill Duson, is asking for $12 million from the stimulus package
to help fund Portland's $61 million sewer upgrade program aimed at
eliminating combined overflows.
At a White House meeting between mayors and the President, Duson
also endorsed Obama's goal of providing accountability and
transparency for public tracking of how all the stimulus money is
spent. (The administration released a
25,000-word documentlast week detailing how federal, state, and
local authorities are expected to report spending so that citizens
can follow the money on the White House's new stimulus package website.)
Mayor Duson told the
Maine Press Herald, "I am personally committed to make sure
that our senators – who went out on a limb for the package
– can demonstrate that it was administered properly and
efficiently and created jobs in the Portland region." At the state
level, Maine Governor, John Baldacci, has pledged to keep the
stimulus money separate from other state spending, setting up
special accounts at all state agencies to isolate and track the
Municipal efforts to clean up contaminated stormwater overflows are
mostly big civil engineering projects. However, builders and
developers can also play a key role in preventing stormwater
overflows, experts say, by applying "Low Impact Development"
stormwater management methods. "Integrated Management Practices"
like green roofs, cisterns, rain barrels, landscape swales, "rain
gardens," and permeable sidewalks and driveways can allow most or
all of the stormwater that falls on a site to soak harmlessly into
the earth and recharge groundwater, rather than running off into
waterways or the ocean — and this can eliminate the need for
costly civil engineering solutions. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has information on LID methods at the EPA website. But it's not clear
whether federal stimulus money will stretch to cover these advanced
methods — even though LID has been demonstrated to cost less
and perform better than old-fashioned "end of pipe" approaches.
Look to Coastal Connection later in the year for more information
on green methods for stormwater management.