Our View - By Sun Journal Editorial Staff
November 2, 2008 5:00 AM
There's time to do right by the river
When making history, it's best not to rush.
This is good advice for the Board of Environmental Protection this week, as it holds discussions about raising the classification of the Androscoggin River from Durham to Merrymeeting Bay.
A potent coalition of river communities and advocates support the change, which would make that section a Class B river under the Clean Water Act. Such a change, for this river, would be unprecedented.
The Androscoggin has suffered against its classification for years, especially since its miserable condition inspired Sen. Ed Muskie, who hailed from Rumford, to draft the Clean Water Act in the 1960s.
Today, the river is either noncompliant or barely compliant with water Act standards. It has shown great improvement since Muskie's day, but still has far to go.
That's the matter before the BEP on Thursday.
River advocates tout six years of water monitoring that proves - to them - that section of the river is classifiable as B, a notch below top marks for cleanliness, which is a significant milestone.
State environmental regulators aren't so sure. They approach the data with skepticism, largely because they weren't consulted in its gathering. For this reason and others, the state is recommending against the reclassification.
Regardless of this reticence, the evidence suggests the advocates - Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, specifically - are right. Water quality, based on its findings, of the Androscoggin from Durham through Brunswick is likely good enough to merit higher classification.
More data is needed, if only to confirm these findings and allow the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to have ownership of the results.
While at odds, the Friends lack leverage to change the DEP's opinion. As partners, however, real progress and reclassification could be attained.
The agency, to its credit, is offering a partnership, according to a memo provided to the BEP. This is the right avenue to free the Androscoggin from the scientific limbo between its advocates and state scientists.
On Thursday, the BEP should mandate a cooperative analysis of the river's health and the Friends' data, without delay. The evidence for the investigation is strong, and so is the political will to help the river.
It is time, and there is time, to take advantage of both.
Everything's been done right so far. A strong coalition of river "mouths" has pushed action on the Androscoggin. The DEP is being justifiably staid by insisting on ensuring the science is infallible.
We appreciate the efforts of both. The goal of each side should be an Androscoggin River that meets the highest cleanliness standards with bulletproof accuracy, through the unanimity of opinion from all its stakeholders.
It's taken years to get this far. The process is working. For the BEP to recommend reclassification, over concerns of its agency, could harm future progress on the river, which is the victim in this case.
We're staunch proponents of bettering the river. It goes against our grain to advise patience, not action.
But just as much as we want it done, we want it done right.
Posted By:dr. dosh at November 2, 2008 9:51 PM
Besides all this L S J ® , just have someone go fishing below Great Falls and see if the Atlantic Salmon make it up that far . They ought to be jumping during the spawning season . That's an indicator right there • Alo'ha from Pahoa =)