Water Fight Moving From City Hall To State House

By Tim Goff, SeacoastOnline, Nov. 4, 2009

WELLS,  ME — Voters in this oceanside community rejected an ordinance that would have allowed large-scale water extraction in their town.  The measure was defeated by a margin of better than 2 to 1 – with 1420 voting in favor and 3194 voting against the proposed ordinance.

“As the global water scarcity crisis gets worse, groundwater is going to be more and more important,” said Jamilla El-Shafie, co-founder of Save Our Water.  “We want to assure that this water is here for us for local control, under local control.”

The issue came to a head over a proposed deal between the water district Wells shares with Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, and Poland Spring surfaced.  The deal would have allowed the company to extract thousands of gallons of water daily from the town’s water source, Branch Brook, and its’ aquifer.  The deal is no longer in the works, but voters wanted to have their say on how the town should proceed in the future.

“We do not want to see a large-scale water extractor in the area,” said El-Shafie.  “We believe that water should be held in the public trust.”

Officials with Poland Spring say they support local water ordinances “because they have given regulatory control to the town, protected local water resources and provide a scientific basis for determining sustainable water withdrawals.”

“Poland Spring has a long tradition in Maine of creating jobs and protecting the environment,” said certified geologist and natural resource manager for Poland Spring Marc Dubois.  “We remain committed to growing and investing in local communities, helping support nearly 400 jobs in York County alone.”

While this battle may be over, the war over water rights in Maine seems to be heating to a boil.  “This is just one fight in a broader struggle and the next battle is really in Augusta and we are hoping that this overwhelming victory is going to send a message to our legislators that we expect them to protect our groundwater,” stated El-Shafie.