Maine Rivers Leading Appeal of Flagstaff 401

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A 401 water quality certification, recently issued by Maine' s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for Flagstaff Lake (referred to as the Flagstaff Storage Project) reflects a shift in the state' s interpretation of water quality standards setting a dangerous precedent for other water quality issues in Maine.

According to Assistant Attorney General Jon Edwards who is critical of the change, “DEP now asserts that, rather than comparing a storage reservoir to a natural lake as it has done since 1995, DEP is now adopting the policy […] that storage reservoirs shall be compared to other impoundments with similar drawdowns. In essence, DEP has stated it plans to interpret existing law in a clearly different manner than prior written interpretations […] Had I been asked to review this new “interpretation” [...] I would have told you that I do NOT believe that it is consistent with the State' s existing water quality laws [...] Nowhere in SS464 (4) or 465-A (1) is there a basis to 'interpret' existing water quality standards to allow that storage reservoirs be compared to other impoundments with similar drawdowns.”

This certification follows a multi-year stalemate in the project. Due to Flagstaff's water quality issues, one feasible way for the State to address this matter would be to have conducted a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA) for the impoundment. Because the outcome of this analysis would have been uncertain, it was clear that the dam owners and the state did not want to conduct the investigation. Skirting the state's water quality laws in order to issue the 401 was the administration's solution to the water quality problem.

Maine Rivers, along with support from many other groups, plans to lead the appeal against the 401 certification.