Gov. Mills signs new law to provide stable funding for vital wastewater infrastructure

Posted: June 27, 2019 | Senator Vitelli

Legislation from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, to ensure a stable funding source for vital water and wastewater infrastructure upkeep and upgrades was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills on June 20.

“Our water and wastewater infrastructure systems are facing a serious crisis that threatens our ability to deliver clean water to Mainers and to keep our ecosystems clean,” said Sen. Vitelli. “Ensuring these systems have the sustainable funding they need is essential to ensuring they stay functional, up-to-date and well-managed.”

The bill — LD 347 “An Act To Provide Sustainable Funding for Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure” — will utilize 30 percent of remaining funds from the Liquor Operation Revenue Fund, after all liquor operation revenue bonds and any ancillary obligations secured by the fund have been taken care of, to provide astable funding for investments in water and wastewater infrastructure. Under prior law, a maximum of 15 percent of these funds could be used for this purpose. Additionally, LD 347 allows funds from the State Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Fund and the Maine Clean Water Fund to be used to provide assistance for capital investment in private and commercial wastewater systems.

More than $1 billion currently is needed for wastewater infrastructure upgrades and repairs in Maine. This number will only climb as water districts, particularly in coastal areas, work to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Additionally, rural areas that have lost much of their tax base in recent years due to mill closures do not have a customer base that can finance projects through rate increases alone. The funds available through LD 347 are a vital need for these areas.

While LD 347 initially was introduced by Rep. Jen DeChant, D-Bath, Sen. Vitelli shepherded the bill following Rep. DeChant’s resignation earlier this year.

LD 347 will go into effect on Sept. 19, 90 days after the legislature adjourned sine die.